From Yahoo News:
The frail priest, who spent most of his life protecting people dumped on the margins of Western life, was little known outside France but was cherished at home as a modern-day saint.
"Abbe Pierre represented the spirit of rebellion against misery, suffering, injustice and the strength of solidarity," Chirac's statement said.
Born in 1912, Henri-Antoine Groues was the fifth child of a silk merchant but gave up his comfortable life to become a monk.
He took his nickname Abbe Pierre -- "abbe" is a traditional title for priests -- as a resistance chaplain during World War Two, when he forged ID papers to smuggle refugees out of France.
He began campaigning for the homeless in 1949 and shot to fame in 1954 when he went on air to demand shelter for thousands of people threatened with death during a bitterly cold winter.
His appeal set off a wave of sympathy, and his Emmaus chain of hostels for the homeless now covers 41 countries.
Most outside of France are likely to concentrate on his odd public confession late in life and his promotion of married and female priests.