Franz Valli, icon of the Emmaus Movement, has passed away

Franz Valli, icon of the Emmaus Movement, has passed away

We have been deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Franz Valli.

He left his mark on the movement through his career as well as through his personality, the solidarity actions that he led, and the responsibilities that he held.

Franz joined the movement through the “broken windowpane” as we like to say at Emmaus.

He was a companion in Norges in 1985, where he arrived after serving as a legionnaire. He became a deputy head and then the head of the Union of Friends and Companions of Emmaus (Bourg-en-Bresse, Le Havre, Longjumeau, Bayonne, etc.).

Many companions will remember him as a humble and generous man with a big heart. He held fast to his commitments and beliefs and did not hesitate to show his indignation when something merited outrage.

Franz later became the National Secretary of the Union of Friends and Companions of Emmaus, as which he was an ardent defender of the community model and the role of companions, according to the principles set forth by Abbé Pierre.

Another of his striking qualities was, without a doubt, his ability to rally the troops to plan and carry out sweeping and meaningful acts of solidarity. He was always deeply involved in solidarity within the movement, since this cause was near to his heart. And he always brought swaths of friends and companions with him from all backgrounds and all countries where Emmaus is represented. For him, solidarity was more than an immediate response to relieve suffering and fight against indifference and omission (the very foundation of Emmaus). It was also a way to spark change. With Franz, there was no hesitation. It was “Let’s go!”

He was very involved with Emmaus International, where he was occasionally head of a task force. He participated in work camps in America, worked on containers in Africa, and along with Franco Bettoli and Abbé Pierre he helped spearhead Emmaus’s considerable and exemplary actions in Bosnia from 1992 onwards. This was without a doubt one of the most significant initiatives taken by the movement.

He was fearless, ready to cross borders with trucks full of supplies, with all of the risks that entailed, to enter Bosnia—even before the end of the war and the Dayton Accords in 1995.

A man of action

He was a man of action, though he was also very loyal to Abbé Pierre and the movement. Franz always put the collective first. Any other approach seemed futile, destined to scatter rather than unify forces. He served the movement and the struggle against the causes of poverty. He believed in the power of working together as a concrete manifestation and symbol of our political commitment.

Franz responded to every call to action, sometimes even pre-empting them; he was a linchpin of the 1999 World Assembly in Orléans and the 2012 WA in Anglet, which were beautifully organized. He was greatly involved in the success of the 50th anniversary of Emmaus in France and of the first Emmaus salons in Paris.

Several times, Franz took up the mantle of an official position within the movement: he was the treasurer of Emmaus France from 1989 until 1998 and was a member of the Executive Committee and treasurer of Emmaus International in the late 1990s. He also served as a board member and treasurer of the CAPE (Abbé Pierre – Emmaus Centre), and was the chair of Emmaus France in 2013—the first companion to occupy such a position.

Franz fully embodied the values of Emmaus and lived by them with consistency and sincerity, following the example of Abbé Pierre.

Franz, there are no words to express our gratitude. Your warmth and your exceptional commitment to solidarity will forever be etched in the history of Emmaus as they are in our hearts.

Patrick Atohoun, Jean Rousseau, Renzo Fior