Obituary: Georges Hourdin

WHEN GEORGES Hourdin celebrated his hundredth birthday on 3 January this year, this ever-active journalist was interviewed by many of his colleagues. To one of them he confided (or did he assert?), "I am always having trouble with the Pope!" This was persistently the problem with the left-wing Catholic ("catho de gauche" was his proud description of himself), particularly in his interpretation of how he should follow the decisions and implications of the Second Vatican Council; it was also the problem for French Catholics.

Everyone agrees that French Catholicism has declined over the last half- century in certain matters of personal belief and behaviour, but there is wide acceptance of the role the Church should play in expressing its opinions on certain subjects that concern society. Thus the Church's views on conditions in the Third World, on racism, unemployment or nuclear weapons are respected. Hourdin saw himself both as expres-sing church opinions and discussing their value and their relevance.

He was born into a part of France where the Church was always strong, at Nantes. His mother was exceptionally devout. She believed in the anti- revolutionary tradition of the Vendee, she was a monarchist who hated the Republic. At the College Stanislas in Nantes he received his education under the disturbing influence of Jansenism.

The paradox in Hourdin's family was that his mother was devoted to her husband, who earned his living as a timber merchant and was determinedly Socialist and Republican in terms of belief. Under his influence Hourdin studied law and economics at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and became acquainted with the excitements of politics.

The discovery that he suffered from epilepsy prevented him from seeking an active career as a politician and from 1927 he worked as a journalist, having associated closely with the Dominicans who had brought him a gentler version of Christianity and the necessity of working for social reforms. He was therefore attracted to the Parti Democrate Populaire, founded in November 1924. He worked in its press office, issuing statements and definitions of policy.

Hourdin was to adhere to the principles of this party all his life. That is to say that democracy should also be social and economic; that there should be co-operation between employers and workers; that the individual should be a member of different communities, such as trade unions or religious associations, but the family was of the first importance; that there should be co-operation and friendship between nations.

He wrote for the party's Le Petit Democrate, a weekly paper with a circulation of 20,000. He also collaborated with papers such as L'Aube and Sept, and worked with famous Catholic writers such as Francois Mauriac and Charles Maritain. Their enemy was the extreme right of Charles Maurras.

Hourdin married Genevieve Oriolle, with whom he had eight children. One daughter was killed by an American bomb in 1943. He had become the editor of the Catholic review Temps Present but this was suppressed in 1940. He therefore devoted himself to social work, with particular reference to families living in the occupied zone. He supported the pro-Natalist movement and worked with Emilien Amaury, who had escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp and begun a resistance group based in the Rue de Lille in Paris.

Hourdin's life was transformed in January 1945 when the weekly magazine La Vie Catholique Illustree was launched, with himself as the chief editor. It soon had a circulation of half a million and it was said that 12 per cent of the population read it. It set out to be a family paper, hoping to make people conscious of Christianity rather than being specifically doctrinal.

Hourdin believed that an editor should stimulate controversy. The paper's journalists had violent discussions and this was communicated to the readers. Thus the Communists were attacked, but worker priests were encouraged; the Soviet Union was criticised but the Cold War was rejected; good Frenchmen were fighting and being killed in Indo-China and Algeria, but decolonisation was both inevitable and desirable.

Readers were often lost, Hourdin himself was frequently attacked. He claimed he was totally free. He was also very energetic. He published 23 books on such subjects as Camus, Simone de Beauvoir or notably, in 1969, a book entitled Les Chretiens contre la societe de consummation ("Christians against the Consumer Society"). In 1951 he published another magazine, Radio-Cinema, which became, inevitably, Telerama.

He wanted to bring the Gospels into line with modern life. This brought him much controversy. But he sought to protect those who suffered. His book Le Malheur innocent (1976), based upon the cruel disability of one of his daughters, sought to protect the handicapped and was everywhere recognised as having great value. He was a determined man and he did much good.

Georges Hourdin, journalist: born Nantes, France 3 January 1899; married Genevieve Oriolle (deceased; four daughters, three sons, and one daughter deceased); died Paris 29 June 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine