France : Death of Abbé Pierre

Source: FSSPX News


Abbé Pierre, the founder of the Emmaus movement in 1949, died at the age of  94 of a pulmonary infection on January 22 at the Val de Grace Hospital in Paris.

Henri Grouès was born at Lyon on August 5, 1912. It was during the Resistance that he began to refer to himself as Abbé Pierre. He had first entered the Capuchin Order, and later joined the diocesan clergy at Grenoble. He became famous when he launched an impassioned appeal in favor of the homeless on Radio Luxemburg in February 1954.

Among the many reactions to his death, we quote here that of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of the French Episcopal Conference : “Abbé Pierre has gone back to his Father. May God welcome him into the fullness of His love. I pray for all those whom he helped, and whose spokesman he became, bringing to light their plight and breaking in on our indifference. May they find comfort in this hope of God-Love, of which Abbé Pierre always gave witness”.

 In an interview given to the press agency I.MEDIA, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of  the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, declared that Abbé Pierre was “a very great personality who deserved praise for fighting competently to help not only Catholics, but all French people, who felt this very much, and on an even wider scale abroad, he made us realize that the needs of others were our concern, not only within the Hexagon (ie. France), but everywhere in the world.” Abbé Pierre did much to overcome the negative image which some people had of the Church, said Cardinal Poupard. He considered the founder of Emmaus had enabled people to understand what is expressed in Benedict XVI’s encyclical, God Is Charity: “The whole Church and all Christians are charity.” 

 For his part, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray described Abbé Pierre as a “pioneer of charity” and saw in him a living example of love of neighbor and a true “icon of solidarity”.  Interviewed by the press agency Ansa, the vice-dean of the College of Cardinals said that through his daily actions Abbé Pierre had manifested the power of the Gospels, having a special relationship with the poor. According to him, his death will leave a great void, but also a “great heritage: the Emmaus Community.” “People appreciated him and could recognize themselves in him, and even though he was not perfect, he may be considered as a disciple of the Gospel,” he said.

 On January 23, Benedict XVI sent a message of condolence via the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone to the President of the French Bishop’s Conference, Cardinal Ricard. “Having learned of the death of Abbé Pierre, the Holy Father gives thanks for his action in favor of the poorest, by which he gave witness to the charity which comes to us from Christ. He entrusts him to God’s mercy and asks the Lord to receive into the peace of His Kingdom, this priest who spent all his life fighting poverty.”

 The French press did not want to be outdone. Le Pèlerin announced that a dossier would appear on Wednesday January 24, as well as a 100 page special edition available at kiosks on Thursday 25. On Tuesday 23, La Croix was offering a 16-page special issue, with notably, reports from within the historic Emmaus Community of Neuilly-Plaisance. La Vie came out two days earlier than usual, with a 50-page dossier, which was on sale from Tuesday 23.

 Abbé Pierre’s funeral took place in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on Friday January 26, at 11am. His private interment took place at Esteville, in Seine-Maritime.

 The chapel of the Val de Grace Hospital was opened exceptionally to the public on January 24 and 25 from 10 am until 10 pm for those wishing to pray near his coffin. An assembly was organized at the Palais Omnisport in Bercy, from 7pm onwards on Thursday 25, enabling companions, people involved in Emmaus and personalities to pay their respects.

 The president of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, announced that national homage would be paid to the founder of Emmaus. And the socialist Laurent Fabius even spoke of the Pantheon for Abbé Pierre!


Without questioning the philanthropic activity of the Abbé, may we be allowed to recall here that his doctrine was not very... Catholic. Less than two years ago, in a book entitled: Mon Dieu…Pourquoi? (My God…Why?) ( Plon, 2005 ) co-written with the editor of Le Monde des Religions, Frédéric Lenoir, Abbé Pierre  took a stand in favor of priests’ marriage: “I know priests who have been living for years with the woman they love and are quite happy with the situation. They continue to be good priests. This poses a crucial question for the Church, on priests marrying and the ordination of married men,” As regards the ordination of women: “I have never understood why John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger have said that the Church would never ordain women. Such a statement presupposes that this practice would not be in accordance with the very substance of the Christian faith”. Concerning homosexual couples: “I understand the sincere desire of many homosexual couples, who have often lived their love clandestinely and in exclusion, to have their relationship recognize by society. Until his death, my secretary was Fr.Peretti, who made no secret of his homosexuality and who was one of the founders of a Christian association for the recognition of homosexuality: David and Jonathan.” Speaking about The Da Vinci Code: Jesus married to Mary Magdalen? “this supposition does not trouble my faith at all. In other words, I would oppose those who say that it is impossible for Jesus to have had sexual relations because of His divinity.”