Seldom, if ever, have I seen an entire nation spontaneously pay tribute to a simple priest. Abbe Pierre spent most of his 94 years in France helping the poor, the homeless, the unemployed and all those he came across on the fringes. He had a simple message: “The true peacemakers are those who open themselves to universal consciousness.” President Chirac said his death “touched the very heart of France.” The president, his government, various elites, the poor and the homeless attended his funeral presided over by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris.
The response of every layer of society to the life and work of this simple priest says much about what the laity see as authentic in a priest. He gave of himself, he did not count the cost and advancements and honours were not what he or others judged himself by. The fact that he was intimate with several women did not in any way diminish the repute in which he was held at least by lay people.
Abbe Pierre was called “the little father of the poor.” RIP