Emmaus International

In the autumn of 1949 Abbé Pierre, who had acquired a house in Neuilly-Plaisance (on the outskirts of Paris, France), and his parliamentary secretary, Lucie Coutaz, welcomed Georges Legay as the first companion, followed by the first family, who had been evicted from their housing in December. This was how, without being aware of it, the first Emmaus community was born.

In the following years, other communities came into being and numerous companions, young people living at the youth hostel and builders, then ragpickers regained their dignity thanks to the welcome they received, and through sharing and working.

Faced with a drastic shortage of housing and the inaction of the French authorities, and after having sought in vain to find a solution through legislation, Abbé Pierre made his famous appeal of 1 February 1954 and its impact was felt globally.

In June 1954, the first issue of the journal Faim & soif (hunger and thirst) was published, created by Abbé Pierre as an "international journal and information for action" to "state the unspoken".

As of 1954, Abbé Pierre travelled the world, invited to speak at conferences, and he became engaged in an international combat against poverty in all its forms, including housing, hunger, work, health and education.

His conferences led to the creation of Emmaus groups (communities, friends, volunteers) in Canada (1955), Switzerland (1956), South Korea (1957), Lebanon (1959), Chile (1959), Brazil (1963), Rwanda (1969), and many more.

In July 1963, after surviving a shipwreck in the Río de la Plata between Uruguay and Argentina, Abbé Pierre, aware that the Emmaus movement should not rely solely on him and Lucie Coutaz, recognised the urgency to structure the movement. He created an international provisional council and invited all the Emmaus groups, established in 26 countries, to a meeting. He submitted a draft of the Manifesto to these groups and requested their amendments, with the aim of making it the common basis for all groups throughout the world.

This is how 150 representatives from 70 groups, from 20 nations and 4 continents, met for the first time at the International Assembly, on 24 and 25 May 1969, at the Federal Parliament in Bern, Switzerland.