Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, the international community for people with learning disabilities, has died in Paris at the age of 90.

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In a statement on L’Arche’s website, its leaders said: “Jean passed away peacefully today . . . In recent days, while remaining very present, he had declined quickly.

“We all know Jean’s place in the history of L’Arche and Faith and Light and in the personal stories of many of us. Jean’s life has been one of exceptional fruitfulness. First and foremost we wish to give thanks for that ... In his last message, a few days ago, Jean said: ‘I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure what the future will be but God is good and whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy and give thanks for everything. My deepest love to each one of you.’”

Jean Vanier’s story

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The son of a former governor-general of Canada, Georges Vanier, Jean Vanier was born in Geneva on September 10, 1928.

In 1964, feeling the need to do something more meaningful with his life, Vanier bought a house in Trosly-Breuil, northern France, and founded L’Arche, a community for those with learning disabilities to live with their carers and be helped to grow to their full potential. L’Arche International now has 150 sites around the world.

Vanier co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu in 1971. This is an international network of forums for those with learning disabilities, their friends and family. It now has more than 1,500 communities in 81 countries.

Vanier was the author of more than 30 books. Among his many honours, he was a Companion of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Légion d’honneur and a winner of the Templeton Prize.

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Jean Vanier’s Five Princinples

Principle 1 – All humans are sacred, whatever their culture, race, religion, whatever their capacities and incapacities, whatever their strengths and weaknesses may be. All of us need help in order to become all that we may be. For example, if we are going through a hard time in our life, we need all the help we can get in order to find ourselves. We are all sacred and shouldn’t be treated differently for anything about us.

Principle 2 – Our world and our individual lives are in the process of evolving – how we think about the way we looked at things in the past, and learning about how those things in the past live in the future. Things like peace, love, unity, and especially the necessity of forgiveness.

Principle 3 – Maturity comes through working with others – we have to belong and find each other.

Principle 4 – Humans need to be encouraged to make choices – we need to become responsible for ourselves and for the lives of others as well.

Principle 5 – In order to make choices, we need to reflect and to seek truth and meaning – We need to stay connected to our reality and what’s going on in our world. We need to accept ourselves and others as we and they are.

L’Arche Australia:  our identity

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We are people with and without intellectual disabilities, sharing life in Communities belonging to an International Federation.

Mutual relationships and trust in God are at the heart of our journey together.

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We celebrate the unique value of every person and recognize our need of one another.