Abbot Pierre, founder of the Emmaus community, dead at 94

.- Abbe Pierre, one of the most popular and controversial figures in recent French Catholicism, died Monday at the age of 94 at a Paris hospital.

Martin Hirsch, president of the Companions of Emmaus, the organization found by Abbe Pierre in 1949 to reach out to the poor and to refugees, said his funeral would be held on Saturday “in the strictest privacy, at the cemetery of the community of Esteville.”  The French government has announced it would like to give the Capuchin friar a state funeral.

Abbe Pierre was born Henri Groues on August 5, 1912, was ordained to the priesthood in 1938.  He became famous under the code name that he used as an active leader of the French resistance during World War II, when he helped hundreds of Jews escape to Switzerland and Algeria to escape the Holocaust. The Nazis eventually arrested him, but he was able to escape to Algeria.  During that time he also began an effort to help the poor and needy, especially homeless families.  Out of this effort grew the Emmaus Community.

Besides being a defender of the poor and immigrants, Abbe Pierre authored several books, including one in 1994 in which he admitted he had had a brief sexual relationship with a woman.  He later voiced his approval for same sex-unions.

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