Today In Fact, 05 August

Today in 1962, Nelson Mandela is jailed, he would not be release until 1990. It happened to be the same day that Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, which is kind of fitting I guess?

Some fifty years prior, a baby boy was born in Lyon into a Wealthy Catholic family of silk traders. Henri Marie Joseph Grouès. As a child he helped his father and the local order of Hospitaliers Veilleurs in providing barber services to the poor. Clearly just shaving the heads of the poor was not enough for this young man. When he turned 17 he joined the Capuchin order, renounced his inheritance and became known as Brother Phillipe. He later was ordained a priest and the Capuchins stationed him in Grenoble.

During the Second World War, Abbé Pierre, whicg was his Nom de Guerre, specialized in making forged passports which were given to Jews and others seeking escape from the Nazis.

He was arrested twice, once in 1944 by the Nazi police in the city of Cambo-les-Bains in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, but was quickly released and escaped to Spain then Gibraltar to finally join the Free French Forces of General de Gaulle in Algeria. In the Free North Africa, he became a chaplain in the French Navy on the battleship Jean Bart in Casablanca. He had become an important character and symbol of the French Resistance.

At the end of the war, he was awarded with the Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with bronze palms and the Médaille de la Résistance. As other members of the Resistance, his experience would mark him for life, teaching him the necessity of engaging himself to protect fundamental human rights through legal means and, if need be, through a sort of civil disobedience doctrine.

At the War’s end, Abbé Pierre went into politics but his leanings were far to the left of the Christian Democrats. In 1950 he started the Emmaus community which sought to assist the homeless.

Abbé Pierre had a difficult relationship with his Church hierarchy, first of all because of his positions towards the Church and the Vatican. His positions concerning social issues and engagements, at times explicitly left-wing, made him both controversial and popular. The Abbé Pierre also maintained a relationship with the progressive French Catholic Bishop Jacques Gaillot, to which he recalled his duty of “instinct of a measured insolence”.

This courageous man died in 2007.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (