The Gabriel movement was commenced in Germany during the 1930s by two Franciscan friars, Clemens Anheuser and Gabriel Schmidt, former missionaries in Brazil. Following persecution by the anti-religious Nazi regime, the movement declined, particularly during the Second World War. The war over, the movement was revived and a number of sister Guilds were founded in other countries.
In 1953, under the leadership of the Austrian Guild, an umbrella organisation for the whole movement was founded in Salzburg. Titled “The World Union of St. Gabriel”, its objective is to keep the various National Guilds in touch with other, for the exchange of information and the eternal friendship of all stamp collectors.
The World Union now includes Guilds of varying size in Austria, Argentine, Belgium, Brazil, Eire, Germany, Britain, Holland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, and Uruguay. There is also a Nordic Guild (covering all the Scandinavian countries).
Following recent developments in Eastern Europe, Guilds in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Latvia have also joined the World Union. The various National Guilds keep in touch through the World Union and through the exchange of their Bulletins.
The World Union Committee is elected from representatives of the various Guilds and a member of the British Guild was General Secretary for twelve years and subsequently World President for a four-year term.
Guilds volunteer to host and organise the World Union Congress, which is held every four years, usually in Western Europe.