Dominique Pire Biography

(Dominican friar whose work helping refugees in post-World War II)

Birthday: February 10, 1910 (Aquarius)

Born In: Dinant, Belgium

Dominique Pire was a Belgian cleric and educator known for his work in helping refugees in post-World War II Europe. Completely dedicated to humanitarian causes, he founded many organizations whose activities have benefited thousands of people around the world. He always advocated human unity and was an ardent supporter of internationalism. Born in Belgium a few years before the World War I broke out, he and his family had to flee from their homeland when the Germans advanced into their country at the outbreak of the war, in 1914. They lived in France for four years before returning home to discover that their home was now in ruins. This early experience of being a war-time refugee left a deep impact on the young boy’s mind. On growing up, he entered the Dominican monastery of La Sarte at Huy and took his final vows, in 1932. He went on to complete his doctorate in theology and he returned to the monastery at Huy to teach sociology and moral philosophy. He tirelessly worked for humanitarian causes during and after the World War II and was active in the underground escape system that returned downed Allied flyers to their own forces. He received many honors for his work in helping refugees in post-World War II Europe, including the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1958.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Georges Charles Clement Ghislain Pire

Died At Age: 58

Nobel Peace Prize Belgian Men

Died on: January 30, 1969

place of death: Leuven, Belgium

Notable Alumni: Catholic University Of Leuven, Pontifical University Of St. Thomas Aquinas

Cause of Death: Complications Following Prostate Surgery

More Facts

education: Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of Leuven

awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Childhood & Early Life
Dominique Pire was born as Georges Charles Clement Ghislain Pire in Dinant, Belgium, on February10, 1910, to Georges Pire, Sr. and Berthe Pire. He had three younger siblings.
During the World War I, his family fled the country to escape from advancing German troops. The family spent four years as refugees in France before being able to return to Belgium. They struggled to re-establish their lives as their old home was now in ruins.
Pire grew up to be an intelligent and sensitive boy. He studied classics and philosophy at the Collège de Bellevue before entering the Dominican order at La Sarthe in Huy, Belgium, at the age of 18. He took his final vows in 1932 and adopted the religious name of "Dominique Pire."
He then proceeded to study theology and the social sciences at the Pontifical International Institute Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome. He obtained his doctorate in theology in 1936 with a thesis titled ‘L’Apatheia ou insensibilité irréalisable et destructrice’ (Apatheia or unrealisable and destructive insensitivity).
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He returned to the monastery of La Sarthe, in Huy, and began teaching sociology and moral philosophy. During this time he realized that in order to serve humanity in a better way he would have to venture outside the monastery as well.
He ventured into humanitarian work and started helping impoverished families improve their standard of living and gain a sense of dignity. In 1938, he founded two organizations, the Service d'entr'aide familiale (Mutual Family Aid) and Stations de plein air de Huy (Open Air Camps) for children.
The World War II broke out in 1939 and Pire became active in the resistance movement, helping to return downed Allied flyers to their own forces. He also served as an agent for the intelligence service during the war.
Pire was troubled by the pathetic conditions of the refugees. After the war ended, he became deeply involved in the enormous refugee problem. He visited the camps for refugees in Austria, and wrote a book, ‘Du Rhin au Danube avec 60,000 D. P.’ Taking forward his work, he founded an organization, Aid to Displaced Persons, in 1949.
Soon the organization which provided aid to refugees, regardless of their nationality or religion, had branches throughout Europe. He also founded four homes for the aged refugees at Huy (1950), Esneux (1951), Aertslaer (1953), and Braine-le-Comte (1954). In addition, he initiated the system of sponsors that allowed a refugee to be helped by a person in another country.
In order to give the refugees a chance to re-build their lives and put down roots, he conceived the idea of building small villages for them. He helped construct seven villages, each for about 150 people at Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany (1956); Bregenz, Austria (1956); Augsburg, Germany (1957); Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Belgium (1958); Spiesen in the Saar (1958); Wuppertal, Germany (1959); and Euskirchen, Germany (1962). All seven of these villages still exist.
In 1957, Aid to Displaced Persons became Aid to Displaced Persons and European Villages, an international charitable association, with self-governing sections in 10 European countries.
In 1960 he established in Huy the Mahatma Gandhi International Peace Centre, later known as the University of Peace. The university is open to anyone who wishes to devote himself to constructive work for peace. About 4,000 people from 40 countries have taken part in the sessions of the university which instructs youths in the principles and practice of peace.
He was also the founder of the World Friendships, an agency that aims to promote better understanding between people of different heritages, and the World Sponsorships which enables people to sponsor aid for African and Asian refugees.
Major Works
Dominique Pire is best remembered for his work in helping refugees in post-World War II Europe. Deeply dedicated to humanitarian work, he became a chaplain to the Belgian resistance during the war, and founded homes for aged refugees, among other services. In the post war period, he organized a network of sponsors who supplied food, clothes and medicine to the displaced refugees and set up villages for their rehabilitation.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the Military Cross with Palms, the Resistance Medal with Crossed Swords, the War Medal, and the National Recognition Medal in recognition of his humanitarian works during and after the World War II.
In 1958, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work in helping the refugees of the World War II. The Nobel Committee attached much significance to his efforts to "build a bridge across the waves from colonialism, anti-colonialism, and racial conflict".
Personal Life & Legacy
Dominique Pire lived a simple life in the monastery at Huy and spent 32 years of his life in service to humanitarian causes. Even though he was a monk, he refused to mix his personal faith with his commitments to social justice and chose to use a more universal language to spread his messages of peace rather than using explicitly Christian language.
He died from complications from surgery on January 30, 1969, at the age of 58.

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