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Priest voted France's favourite again

A Catholic priest who has spent most of his life championing the poor, homeless and unemployed has again been voted France's favourite personality, French television reported.

91 year old Abbé Pierre topped a poll carried out by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. France's football superstar Zinedine Zidane, who plays for Real Madrid, took second place.

This is the 17th time that Abbe Pierre has topped the popularity list, the TV station said. Born Henri Groues, he served as a Capuchin monk before being ordained a priest in 1938.

He became known as Abbé Pierre during his work with the French Resistance, smuggling Jews out of occupied France. But in the 1990s, he incurred the wrath of the American Jewish organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, for allegedly comparing the acts of the ancient Israelites to the Holocaust and downplaying the Nazis' crimes against the Jews.

The League decried Abbe Pierre's remarks as "insulting to both Jews and Catholics," and urged the Catholic Church to take action against him. His defenders said he was seeking justice for the Palestinians and was not anti-Semitic.

He became a member of the French Parliament after the war, and in 1949 founded the Emmaus movement, known for its self-supporting communities of homeless people.


A brief essay on Abbé Pierre's personal memoir (Theology@Macauley)
Abbé Pierre (Dignity International)
Abbé Pierre (EuropaWorld)

19 Aug 2003