The Roman Catholic priest, Abbe Pierre, one of France’s most popular figures has died. The leading social rights activist, who was 94, had been in hospitalised for just over a week ago with bronchitis. Often donning a beret and cape and clutching a cane, Abbe Pierre – a code name from his World War II resistance days – topped polls as France’s most beloved public figure almost year after year.
His death was announced by President Jacques Chirac who described him as a “living legend”, adding that France had lost “an immense figure, a conscience, a man who personified goodness.”
Born Henri Groues, he set up the Emmaus Community Foundation for the impoverished in 1949.It gained nationwide notoriety when he persuaded parliament to pass a still existing law which forbids landlords from expelling tenants during winter months. Well into his 90s, he continued to champion the causes close to his heart and will be remembered as a staunch defender of the homeless and the destitute.