Right up to the end, Abbé Pierre dedicated his life to helping others. When he departed for what he liked to refer to as the ‘long holidays’, he left the Emmaus movement a legacy of struggle.
Henri Grouès – known as Abbé Pierre – died on the morning of 22 January 2007, at the Val-de-Grâce hospital in Paris. One week of tributes was dedicated to him by the entire Emmaus movement, but also by the public and political leaders who noted the loss of a “huge figure” in the fight against poverty. Public figures and private individuals gathered around the coffin in the Val-de-Grâce chapel before the evening of remembrance organised for 3,000 people from all over the world at the Paris-Bercy sports centre on 25 January. The religious ceremony was held on 26 January in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. In accordance with the family’s wishes, the “national tribute” protocol was changed: Emmaus companions from all over the world occupied the first two rows, in front of the highest state authorities. The ceremony was attended by 1,500 companions who sat inside the cathedral, thousands of people gathered outside, along with millions of television viewers.
According to Abbé Pierre’s wishes, he was buried at a private ceremony at the cemetery in Esteville, Normandy, France alongside Lucie Coutaz and Georges Legay.
Since Abbé Pierre’s death, the movement has had to learn to live without this central figure: to retain the movement’s unique identity while adapting to new challenges, to keep alive our strength of indignation against injustice, but also firm action to show that other choices are possible. This is the path that we are still following 15 years after the death of this man, whose life and commitment were truly extraordinary.