Brother Roger, the 90-year-old founder of an ecumenical religious community dedicated to peace and reconciliation, was knifed to death by a woman at an evening prayer service attended by 2,500 people, authorities said.

The slaying was deplored Wednesday by the pope and the head of the Anglican Church, who called the slain monk "one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time."

An all-night prayer vigil was held following the fatal attack Tuesday night in the church at Taizé, in Burgundy.

A Romanian woman wielding a knife killed silver-haired Brother Roger (search), witnesses said. A community spokesman, Brother Emile, said the monk's throat was cut and he died 15 minutes later.

Taizé officials said the woman had arrived two days earlier among thousands of pilgrims who visit the site. Prosecutor Jean-Louis Coste said the woman, reportedly 36 years old, had bought the knife the day before.

"It would appear for now there is little doubt that this was premeditated since she bought a knife the day before and voluntary homicide is manifest," Coste told reporters without naming the woman.

Coste said the woman detained for questioning by police. He said she was not "unbalanced enough to justify psychiatric care."

People at the service grabbed the woman, who had sprung from the crowd, and turned her over to police.

Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, founded the Taizé religious community in 1940, emphasizing the need for all Christians to come together in peace, love and reconciliation.

The Taizé ecumenical community, which is near Macon, 240 miles southeast of Paris, draws tens of thousands of Christian youths from around the world each year for prayer and meditation.

Pope Benedict XVI (search) said he had received a "very moving and very friendly letter" just Tuesday from Brother Roger. Benedict spoke of the "very sad and terrifying news."

"This is an indescribable shock," said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (search), spiritual leader of the Church of England. "Brother Roger was one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time and hundreds of thousands will be feeling his loss very personally, and remembering him in prayer and gratitude."

President Jacques Chirac (search) praised Brother Roger as "one of the most remarkable servants of the values of respect and tolerance," while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) said he regarded Brother Roger as one of the "great contemporary personalities of religious life."

Schroeder praised him for sheltering Jewish refugees during World War II and later fostering reconciliation in Europe.