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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 August, 2003, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Priest voted France's favourite - again

Catholic Priest Abbe Pierre
A life not without controversy
A Roman Catholic priest who has spent most of his life championing the poor, homeless and unemployed has again been voted France's favourite personality, French LCI TV reported.

Abbe Pierre, who is 91, came top of a poll carried out by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

France's football superstar Zinedine Zidane, who plays for Real Madrid, took second place.

This is the 17th time that Abbe Pierre has topped the popularity list, the TV said.

Born Henri Groues, he served as a Capuchin monk before being ordained a priest in 1938.


He became known as Abbe Pierre during his work with the French Resistance, smuggling Jews out of occupied France.

But in the 1990s, he incurred the wrath of the American Jewish organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, for allegedly comparing the acts of the ancient Israelites to the Holocaust and downplaying the Nazis' crimes against the Jews.

The League decried Abbe Pierre's remarks as "insulting to both Jews and Catholics," and urged the Catholic Church to take action against him. His defenders said he was seeking justice for the Palestinians and was not anti-Semitic.

He became a member of the French parliament after the war, and in 1949 founded the Emmaus movement, known for its self-supporting communities of homeless people.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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