RIP Abbe Pierre : Our Planet Is A Poorer Place ...
This old Frenchman has died.
Though it's doubtful that many outside France will have heard much about him, or will even recognise him from his photo (left).
And that's a shame.
Since with this man's passing this planet and it's people are inarguably the poorer.
Here's an inkling as to what and who this hero was.
Abbe Pierre dies aged 94This man's religion is irrelevant - to us two at any rate. As we've long since severed all & any connections we may ever have had to/with any organised religion. And just for the record, even before we accepted as inevitable our personal 'conversion' to agnosticism, we were never Catholic Christians, as he was.
The frail, stooped figure of Abbe Pierre, with his white beard, black beret, thick walking cane and mountain boots, was familiar all through France where, for four decades, he acted as the national conscience towards the homeless and the poor.
And it's well over half a century since we decided we'd forever judge men (and women), solely by their actions -- not by their words nor professed philosophy, neither by any prophets followed. After all, words were always ten a penny and talk has always been cheap.
So here we list just a few of this grand old man's actions over the years, along with a few other tid-bits about him -- and you'd better believe both of us when we say there are lots of them; years and actions.
Abbe's growing army collected huge amounts of secondhand furniture and household goods to finance cheap housing,And,
The Abbe, [was] a former Resistance leader and a member of the French Parliament from 1945 to 1951, was never taken in by flattery ... for nine years he refused to accept proffered appointment as a Grand Officier de la Legion d'Honneur in order to put pressure on the Government.
He continued to campaign into extreme old age, notably via his bestselling book, Dieu et les Hommes, a series of conversations with Bernard Kouchner, the founder of Medecins sans Frontieres and a former minister for humanitarian action in the Socialist Government.
Born in 1912, [named] Henri Groues was the son of the prosperous director of a Lyons silk company.And,
In 1931 he gave away his worldly goods and spent eight years with the Capuchins, being ordained on August 14, 1938.And,
An assistant priest at Grenoble Cathedral at the time of the 1940 armistice, he started to help Jews to cross the Alps to Switzerland.
On another occasion he carried Jacques de Gaulle, the paralysed brother of Charles de Gaulle who was being hunted by the Gestapo, across the barbed wire of the Swiss border and to safety in Geneva.
He ran a clandestine printing plant for false documents from his Grenoble home and organised the theft of arms from Italians occupying Grenoble.And,
... arrested by the Italians, [he] managed to escape and join the Maquis in the Vercors. He ran a clandestine newspaper and formed networks to help young men fleeing the German-imposed service du travail obligatoire ...And,
Abbe Pierre even risked going to Paris to run another clandestine printing works. He was held by the Gestapo at one time, but managed to escape.And,
For his wartime activities he was awarded the Resistance medal and the Croix de Guerre with palms.And,
... he himself begged in the streets of Paris to raise money for his so-called chiffonniers-bÃ¢tisseurs (ragpicker-builders).And,
In the terrible winter of 1954, when the homeless were dying in night-time temperatures of minus 15C (they included a baby who died in an abandoned bus), Abbe Pierre successfully mobilised newspapers and radio to badger the Government to revive the flagging post-war housing programme, and he persuaded the parliament to pass a law forbidding landlords to evict tenants during winter months.And,
For 40 years the Abbe also battled for better conditions in millions of homes. At one time, according to his estimate, five million people were badly housed in France, and he enjoyed considerable success in influencing government decisions to overhaul decaying social housing.
... he travelled widely and met many world leaders, from presidents and kings to religious leaders. On a visit to Argentina in 1963 he was shipwrecked on the River Plate and was initially reported to be dead.And,
In 2004 Abbe Pierre was appointed to the rank of Grand Croix de l'Ordre de la L'egion d'honneur, the highest distinction that the French State can bestow.Well, were we right?
He continued to campaign almost up to his death, last year addressing the French parliament, from his wheelchair, on the importance of low-cost social housing.
Is our planet (plus it's people), the poorer for his passing?
It may help you more easily make up your mind, if you read the full report from today's London Times: Abbe Pierre -- August 5, 1912 - January 22, 2007
Bearing in mind that all men & women should be measured by individual actions, regardless of religion, race or anything else 'accident of birth' related.