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Maurice Zundel Space, a haven for “meaning seekers” – Swiss Catholic Portal

Maurice Zundel Space, a haven for “meaning seekers” – Swiss Catholic Portal

“Espace Maurice Zundel”, located a stone's throw from Lausanne station, will be opened on April 20 and 21, 2024. This place with an ecumenical vocation offers urban residents the service of reception, listening and contemplation, in the spirit of a Swiss priest and contemplation. Theologian Maurice Zündel (1897-1975).

The Espace Maurice Zundel stands like a glass bowl on Boulevard de Grancy, in the heart of Lausanne. The building, on two floors, includes rooms dedicated to the various activities offered. In addition to the meeting space on the ground floor, the space, created by the Catholic Diocese of the Sacred Heart, in the basement includes a chapel, meditation and conference rooms and even a library. With an ecumenical vocation, the new space accommodates Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox services. met Father Mark Donzi, President of the Maurice Zundel Foundation.

For what purpose was Espace Maurice Zundel created?
Mark Donzi: The place invites anyone, resident of Lausanne, traveler, passerby, or traveler, to come and relax, meditate, pray, talk, or simply take some time, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and refocus. It is also a place for engagement and dialogue, as well as a place to learn about or deepen Maurice Zündel's thought.

What can a visitor actually find there?
There is a reception desk. About two dozen volunteers inquire about the expectations of people who arrive, perhaps just to be quiet, to participate in a celebration or to start a conversation. These volunteers received training in listening as well as spirituality from Maurice Zundel.

Why did you make a space on this site?
There was already a chapel and rooms belonging to the Diocese of Sacré-Cœur. The complex was in need of renovation and several options were considered. We first thought of creating an additional diocesan center. But that didn't really make sense, because there was already someone who had everything he needed.

“The space is entirely in keeping with the spirit of Maurice Zündel.”

So – since we are just a stone's throw from the train station and the metro station – why not create a space like those in certain cities, to host cultural events open to all residents, and in particular to people in need searching for meaning? A place that does not particularly highlight religious aspects. The example that inspires me the most in this area is that of Espace St-Louis d'Antin, next to St-Lazare station, in Paris.

Espace Maurice Zundel offers a meditation room | © Rafael Zbinden

What is the relationship between this twentieth-century priest and the new building?
We named the place after Maurice Zundel for several reasons. He is connected to the place in the sense that he spent the last 30 years of his life in Sacred Heart Parish. After a certain period of relative oblivion, the parish noticed that he was becoming more and more known, cited and appreciated, and the community wanted to highlight him more and more.

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Therefore, the place is under the care of…
I think the space is completely in keeping with the spirit of Maurice Zundel. In particular, there is this desire to prefer the human person. Many wanted to call it “urban church,” but that wasn’t very appropriate, because that term meant a whole bunch of things that we didn’t necessarily want to address. The term “space” seemed more appropriate to us. This sparks more openness and welcome, with the concept of freedom.

The spirit of Maurice Zundel inspires the entire structure.
certainly. Already in the architecture of the building, there is the idea of ​​welcoming at the top, and then inviting them to come down one's interior, which can be manifested physically, by moving to the lower level where the church is located. Maurice Zundel's most quoted phrase was that of Saint Augustine who said: “I was looking for you without, and you were within.”

Maurice Zundel, born January 21, 1897 in Neuchâtel and died August 10, 1975 in Ouchy (Lausanne), was an atypical priest and theologian, often misunderstood and marginalized by his hierarchy. But his monumental work had a huge impact. The Maurice Zündel Foundation has launched the cause for his beatification in 2023. The process has been approved by the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg (LGF), Monsignor Charles Morerud. rice.

How was this particular architecture designed?
This concept was discussed with the building committee, who were very open to our ideas and with whom we cooperated very well. The committee wanted to create a fairly classical chapel, but we chose something more “Zundlian”, that is, more sober. We designed the furniture in the church for two students from the École des Arts de Canton de Lausanne (ECAL). The idea was to attract the talent and work of young people, an approach also in keeping with the spirit of Maurice Zündel, who was very interested in young people.

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The space has been open for some time. What are your first notes?
We have already had times of celebrations, morning meditations, and various kinds of meetings, at the moment mainly with Catholic groups. Attendance varies greatly by day. But it seems to me that people are starting to care about the place. Undoubtedly, it will take some time for its peculiarity to be recognized.

Aren't you afraid that too much openness will lead to a “dilution” of Christian values?
I think this danger exists in some “urban churches,” where the line is sometimes lost. We must avoid reaching a form of compromise that no longer makes any sense. We offer Zen meditations, but we probably won't host a Buddhist ceremony.

Father Mark Donzi in front of the ground floor of Espace Maurice Zundel | © Rafael Zbinden

We have a pastoral team, led by Jesuit Luc Rodin, responsible for differentiating the programme, which activities to offer, which groups to welcome, etc. I believe this will ensure consistency. But even if we do not agree with everything presented to us, we are always open to dialogue and exchange.

Some Catholics criticize the Church's integration into “the world”…
There is a dual aspect to our approach. It is about welcoming people as they come, with their questions, their way of life, their doubts… But, at the same time, we are eager to share our treasures, our faith in the Resurrection. If we talk about evangelization, it would best take the form of Charles de Foucault's evangelization. When he lived among the Tuaregs, he did not try to convert them, but rather “traveled” with them, in depth. The goal is to welcome people and “dig with them,” not “for them.”

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So avoid “proselytizing” without hiding from being a Christian…
There is certainly a delicate balance that can be found between these two poles. the document Joy and hopeFrom the Second Vatican Council, he can certainly inspire us in this sense. He believes that the world can offer something to the church. I really like Paul VI's statement that “the Church is a dialogue.” We need to have a real dialogue. There is a way of dialogue in which we listen gently and then say: “The truth is out there.” However, it is important that we avoid this, and not put ourselves “on top,” but rather on a position of equality.

We want to welcome what wealth people can transmit to us, because there are noticeable paths of nobility, in thought or generosity. We must start with the idea that we can always learn something from each other.

Concretely, it is also about volunteers finding that balance between presence and appreciation. If someone comes to pray, you probably shouldn't ask too many questions. But as with anything that's just starting out, we're in a learning phase. (

Official opening of Maurice Zundel space, The concert will take place at Bvd de Grancy 19 in Lausanne on April 20 and 21, 2024. The venue will host the Radio Mass on Sunday, April 21 at 9 am. RTS-Space 2.

The Maurice Zündel Space houses the writings of the theologian as well as many documents related to him that are available to researchers. His archives, including paper and audio materials as well, has recently been transferred from the Diocesan Theological Seminary of Gévezès (France) to Lausanne. They will be processed and sorted there with the aim of long-term preservation. rice.