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|Father Dominique Pire
recipient of the 1958 Nobel Prize for Peace
Georges Charles Clement Ghislain Pire was born in Dinant, Belgium, on February 10, 1910, the first child of Georges (a civic official) and Berthe (Ravet) Pire. At eighteen he entered the Dominican monastery of La Sarte at Huy, Belgium, where he took the name Henri Dominique and said his final vows on September 23,1932. He continued his studies at the Collegio Angelico, the Dominican university in Rome, was ordained in 1934, and granted the doctorate in theology in 1936. After a year of study in the social sciences at the University of Louvain in Belgium, he returned to the monastery at Huy to teach sociology and moral philosophy.
In 1938 Father Pire founded the Service d'entr'aide familiale [Mutual Family Aid] and Stations de plein air de Huy [Open Air Camps] for children, both of which fed thousands of Belgian and French children and refugees during and after World War II. During the war Father Pire served as a chaplain to the resistance movement, agent for the intelligence service, and participant in the underground escape system that returned downed Allied flyers to their own forces. For these works he was awarded the Military Cross with Palms, the Resistance Medal with Crossed Swords, the War Medal, and the National Recognition Medal.
In 1949 Father Pire founded Aid to Displaced Persons, which sought to guarantee moral and material aid to refugees, regardless of their nationality or religion, and between 1950 and 1954 he founded four "Homes of Welcome" in Belgium for aged refugees. Then, believing that the refugees needed to have the opportunity to put down roots, to gain economic independence, to achieve psychological wholeness, he conceived the idea of building small villages for them, to be located on the outskirts of a city where these communities would be free to grow, not in the center of a city where they might degenerate into ghettoes. Using private contributions he constructed seven "European Villages," each for about 150 people: at Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany (1956); Bregenz, Austria (1956); Augsburg, Germany (1957); Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Belgium, (the Fridtjof Nansen Village, 1958); Spiesen in the Saar (the Albert Schweitzer Village, 1958); Wuppertal, Germany (the Anne Frank Village, 1959); and Euskirchen, Germany (1962). Father Pire also initiated the system of sponsors that allowed a refugee to be helped by a person in another country. Father Pire's efforts on behalf of refugees earned him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1958.
Father Pire accepting his Nobel Prize
On June 5, 1959, Father Pire established The Heart Open to the World, an umbrella agency dedicated to promoting international fraternity through the University of Peace, World Friendships, World Sponsorships, and Islands of Peace. He continued his work for refugees until his death, which came at Louvain (Belgium) Roman Catholic Hospital on January 30, 1969, of complications following surgery.
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This page was last updated on February 10, 2019.