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Homeless pastor Ernst Sieber died at the age of 91

He was an unconventional and dazzling personality: Pastor Ernst Sieber fell asleep peacefully on Saturday at the age of 91 years. He had campaigned all his life for the homeless, marginalized and addicts.

 Pastor Ernst Sieber in 2007. (Photo: Steffen Schmidt / Keystone)

Pastor Ernst Sieber in 2007 (Photo: Steffen Schmidt / Keystone)


The family and the social work Father Sieber announced his death together on Sunday evening to the news agency SDA.

As pastor, as national councilor or as head of his social work: With uncompromising devotion has the bustling Protestant-reformed Zurich pastor Ernst Sieber cared for people on the margins of society: homeless, marginalized, drug addicts.

Criticism of social work

Whether he with an old iron plow the stony Zurich soil for the needy "Plowed over or staged with other symbols – Sieber knew how to use unconventional methods and circles critical of the church for himself and his visions 007] Critically he met a social assistance, which "manages" the needy from afar. He preferred to take his protégés by the hand himself. "Social work means sharing what you have," he used to say.

 A heart for the disadvantaged: Pastor Ernst Sieber welcomes homeless people and guests on the Zurich Pfuusbus in 2012. (Image: KEYSTONE / ALESSANDRO DELLA BELLA)

A heart for the disadvantaged: Pastor Ernst Sieber welcomes homeless people and guests on the Zurich Pfuusbus in 2012. (Photo: KEYSTONE / ALESSANDRO DELLA BELLA)

The fact that he followed his words with deeds made him credible. This credibility he also threw into the balance when it came to wrest the authorities unbureaucratic help for his welfare works.

Knecht and theology student

Sieber was born in 1927 in Horgen ZH. After working as a farmhand in western Switzerland, he studied theology at the University of Zurich in the 1950s. After serving as a vicar in the slums of Paris, he took over the parish in Uitikon-Waldegg ZH for ten years in 1956 and was from 1967 to retirement in 1992 pastor of the Protestant parish Zurich-Altstetten.

In the early 1960s founded Sieber his image as a homeless pastor. In Zurich's "Seegfrörni" winter of 1963, he rallied homeless people for the first time and received the bunker on Helvetiaplatz from the city of Zurich.

Advocate of the Youth

From then on he remained a lawyer for the youth, especially the d smoke sparkled. In 1971, he founded the Zurich Working Group for Youth Problems and thus set an early institutional mark against the drug problem.

Over the years, various facilities for marginalized people have emerged. It was not until 1988 that the various start-up and counseling centers shared a common roof with the founding of the "Stiftung Sozialwerke Pfarrer Ernst Sieber."

The rapidly growing institutions with around 20 different stations throughout Switzerland and about 200 employees fell in a wrong light in 1995 , At the center were allegations about the handling of donations, which were, however, cleared by an independent commission. Sieber met the criticism in his own way: "You can take the good reputation, but not the vocation," he replied defiantly. 19659022] Eight children

The turbulences, however, had brought organizational deficiencies to light. Sieber, who saw his main task at the forefront among the needy, had slipped the management of his life's work out of his hands.

The family-run works with an annual budget of around 20 million francs were then broadly supported. A new management concept brought more control and transparency.

An important role in Sieber's life and work was played by his wife Sonja, with whom he raised eight children. For the family and his hobby, the painting, he had in the last few years before his death a little more time.

Fight for drug village

How committed Sieber as a pastor at the Font, also showed in his commitment as an EPP National Council from 1991 to 1995. With the broad support of his motion for a federal drug self-help village, he celebrated his greatest success on the political arena in 1995.

For a second term he did not appear despite good electoral chances because he wanted to dedicate himself entirely to his social projects again. The political commitment had been – according to the model of liberation theology – a commandment of the hour.

 Ernst Sieber in 1986. Picture: Str / Keystone (Zurich, December 9, 1986)

Ernst Sieber in 1986. Picture : Str / Keystone (Zurich, December 9, 1986)

After a car accident in 2012, it was quiet around Pastor Sieber. With keen interest, however, he continued to follow the events in the facilities. Until the very end, he personally took care of his favorite project – the "Pfuusbus", an old semitrailer that offers 40 beds for homeless people in winter.

His Christmas celebrations with marginal people reached almost a cult status in the Zurich luxury hotel Marriott. Once a year with homeless people, his friends, on tables covered in white with silver cutlery was, for him each "a moment of glory".

Just last November Sieber was awarded by the "Observer" with the Lifetime Award, which he personally who accepted. His uncompromising commitment to the marginalized was also recognized by the City of Zurich. In recognition of his merits, Mayor Corine Mauch presented the homeless pastor with the seal of approval, a silver badge with city saints.

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