Emmaus International

thumb echo-depasse-frontieres-franceFrom 1954 onwards

The impact of the appeal was felt far beyond France.

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In February 1954, the European and international media covered the appeal and its ensuing mobilisation. Political, civil, religious and university leaders and ordinary people around the world invited Abbé Pierre to give talks about his struggle against poverty. A long series of trips and conferences followed – Abbé Pierre travelled to London, Geneva, Morocco upon invitation by King Mohammed V, India and South America to persuade people that the fight against poverty is a global struggle.


L’abbé Pierre est invité à travers le monde1955 – 1963

Abbé Pierre was invited to speak at conferences around the world. There, he revealed his experiences with Emmaus, turned the heat up on public opinion and leaders, and lent his support to all those fighting poverty.  He also visited budding Emmaus organisations. Some were created after he left.

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From April – May 1955, Abbé Pierre travelled to the United States and Canada on the initiative of philosopher, Jacques Maritain, at the same time as the film, Les Chiffonniers d’Emmaüs (The Emmaus Ragpickers) was released. He met President Roosevelt there and the highest religious authorities. The events were covered by the media in several European countries.

Soon after Morocco claimed independence, he responded to an invitation from King Mohammed V who turned to Emmaus to help clear its slums.

In September 1956, he spoke to an audience of 800,000 people in Cologne, Germany. He went to the Netherlands and Portugal in 1957 and to Sweden, Belgium and Austria in 1958.

In December 1958 – January 1959, he visited India where an old friendship linked him to the leaders and disciples of Gandhi, the result of shared struggles for world federalism and the struggle against poverty. He stopped off in Lebanon where his conferences received a great deal of attention.

Between July – August 1959, he visited most of the countries in South America and a few newly-formed Emmaus organisations. He forged a strong friendship with dom Hélder Câmara, auxiliary bishop of Rio de Janeiro, who shared his struggle for society’s most disadvantaged members and championed their cause before the Latino-American Catholic authorities and the Vatican.

Whilst Emmaus communities were increasingly springing up in France, Abbé Pierre continued with his meetings and conferences around the world – in Europe (including Austria, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden), in Africa (Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Senegal, Togo), South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela) and North America (Canada, United States), Asia (South Korea, Japan), in Lebanon and in many other countries.


L’abbé Pierre, rescapé d’un naufrage dans le Río de La Plata, prend conscience de la nécessité de structurer le mouvement Emmaüs11 July 1963

Abbé Pierre survived a shipwreck in the River Plate and realised how urgently the Emmaus movement needed to be structured.

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In 1963, Abbé Pierre went on a tour of the Emmaus communities in Latin America. He was travelling aboard the Ciudad de Asunción when it sank on the night of 11 July while sailing across the River Plate estuary (between Argentina and Uruguay). Abbé Pierre survived, although the world's press initially announced he had died. He later said: “This near-death experience was, without a doubt, just as important a moment in my personal life as joining the Capuchin order and begging in the streets of Paris at night […] But it was also a major turning point for the Emmaus movement’s history – and future.”