French News Archive

French Life

Popular French Figure Dies

Thursday 01 February 2007

Abbé Pierre, one of the most popular figures in France, and often referred to as someone who embodied the conscience of the country, has died at the age of 94 years.

Few outside of France have heard of this campaigning priest, but he was consistently voted the nations favourite figure, and politicians treated him with enormous respect.

Abbé Pierre was a resistance fighter during the Second World War, saving amongst others, the brother of the future President of France, Charles de Gaulle. He later developed prominence as a tireless and astute campaigner for the homeless.

In 1949 he founded the 'Emmaus' movement, which has since become an international body committed to campaigning against poverty, and which offers a range of hostel based accommodation for the poor and homeless.

One of the most significant of his campaigning victories occurred in the 1950s, when he persuaded the government to enact a law that brought a halt to the eviction of tenants during the winter months.

Within the past year or so, the problem of homelessness has been high on the political agenda in France, in which the government has passed new homeless legislation, granting a right to housing for all.

Even towards the end Abbé Pierre could be seen glowering down from the public galleries in Parliament, as a reminder to politicians that he expected them to do their duty.

As a sign of esteem in which he was held, the funeral of Abbé Pierre was held last week in Notre Dame cathedral. Despite calls for him to be interred in the Pantheon, (an honour reserved only for the most illustrious figures in French history) he was buried in a private cemetery in Normandy.

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