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Grouès, Henri Antoine

Born: 1912 AD
Died: 2007 AD

1912 – Born on August 5th in Lyons, France. Henri-Antoine Grouès, priest and charity worker.

1931 – At the age of 19 he gave away all his possessions and entered the Capuchin order, becoming Brother Philippe, but ill-health forced him to leave before ordination.

1938 – He was ordained a diocesan priest, becoming a hospital chaplain.

1941 – He became vicar of Grenoble cathedral. During the Second World War he was conscripted into the French army as an NCO but was discharged with pleurisy.

1943 – Abbé Pierre first learn of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, when a German seminarian summoned him to a café in Lyons and showed him photographs he had taken at great risk in an extermination camp. "I looked again at the photos and didn’t believe him," he admitted later in shame. "It was unthinkable."

1944 – He was denounced to the Gestapo, hearing the dreaded knock on the door. But he managed to escape. Realizing he had to flee, he obtained a letter from a heraldic expert authorizing him to investigate the aristocratic pretensions of the Vichy Minister for Jewish Affairs, Darquier de Pellepoix.

1949 – He founded the Emmaus movement and soon spread across the world. But the growth of the movement took its toll.

1954 – It was a freezing night in February. "At 3 o’clock this morning, a woman died of cold on the Boulevard Sebastopol. In her hand was the eviction order she had received the day before. Friends, help!" Abbé Pierre declared urgently, having barged his way into the Radio Luxembourg studios in Paris and seized the microphone from an astonished journalist.

1958 – After a series of operations – Abbé Pierre experienced "terrible moments", overburdened by what he felt was his huge responsibility. "Some thought me mad," he admitted later.

1993 – He contemplated standing for the European Parliament, but ill-health forced him to withdraw.

1996 – Long disliked by some (such as the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen) for what they saw as his naive left-wing views, Abbé Pierre gained new enemies when he supported his friend Roger Garaudy and his controversial book Les Mythes fondateurs de la politique israélienne.

2001 – He had returned to his customary position as the person most French admired.

2005 – He saved up his bombshell until the end, confessing in his book Mon Dieu . . . Pourquoi? ("My God . . . Why?") that he had not kept his vow of celibacy (he also backed the introduction of female Catholic priests). The book’s entire first print-run of 20,000 copies sold within a few days of its publication in France.

2007 – He died in Paris on the 22nd of January.


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