L'Arche founder Jean Vanier dies aged 90

Jean Vanier

The founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier, died on Tuesday at the Maison Médicale Jeanne Garnier in Paris. He was 90 years old.

Mr Vanier founded L'Arche in 1964 out of a desire to improve the level of support available to people with learning disabilities and create a community where they were fully included, living side by side with those without learning disabilities in mutual flourishing.

Today over 10,000 people with and without learning disabilities belong to more than 150 L'Arche communities spanning 38 countries around the world.  

"Jean has left an extraordinary legacy," said L'Arche International Leader Stephan Posner.

"His Community of Trosly, the Communities of L'Arche, Faith and Light, many other movements, and countless thousands of people have cherished his words and benefited from his vision."

There are 12 L'Arche communities in the UK. John Sargent, national leader of L'Arche UK, said: "Jean's death is a great sadness. His vision was one of radical welcome, inclusion and joy, where marginalised people with learning disabilities are valued and celebrated.

"He will be greatly missed by people from all walks of life who have been influenced and changed by his teachings, which remain as relevant today as ever."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, paid tribute to Mr Vanier, saying he had built communities "that Jesus would have recognised". 

"Jean Vanier lived the Gospel in such a beautiful way that few who met him could fail to be caught up in it," he said.

"I join countless people around the world in deep sorrow at his death, and great gratitude for his life. His generosity of spirit and Christian hospitality embraced the whole world – supremely those with learning difficulties. His L'Arche communities were places for the so-called weak to teach the self-perceived strong."