France bade farewell to Cardinal Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger [Sept 17 1926 – Aug 5 2007] on Friday in a ceremony that mixed prayers from his Jewish roots with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, a faith to which he converted during World War Two. [Reuters]
A cousin of the late archbishop of Paris, Arno Lustiger, read the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead [sic] said in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, at the start of the ceremony outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris.
Another family relation, Jonas Moses-Lustiger, read Psalm 113 in Hebrew and French, a psalm of special significance to both Jews and Catholics.
A large crowd had gathered in silence under overcast skies in front of a packed cathedral.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy broke into his summer vacation in the United States to lead political figures at the service but was scheduled to return for a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday.
Lustiger, who died from cancer on Sunday aged 80, was hidden in Catholic boarding schools during the 1940-1944 Nazi occupation of France and converted from Judaism during the war. His mother was arrested and died in the Auschwitz death camp.
Active in Christian student organisations after the war, Lustiger was a top theology student at the Catholic Institute in Paris. Ordained in 1954, he became known as a parish priest in Paris for hard-hitting sermons which were published as a book.
The son of Polish refugees, Lustiger was close to the late Pope John Paul II, who appointed him bishop of Orleans in 1979, and archbishop of Paris in 1981, one of the highest positions for a convert to the French Catholic church. Two years later, Lustiger became a cardinal.
Like John Paul, Lustiger opposed both ultra-traditionalists and the Marxist-leaning “New Left” within the church but also took a vigorous stand on social issues, speaking out for the right to employment and against the exclusion of immigrants.
Jewish religious and community leaders and dignitaries from other religions also attended the funeral, conducted by Lustiger’s successor as Archbishop of Paris, Andre Vingt-Trois, and a message from Pope Benedict was to be read out.
Lustiger’s coffin was borne into the cathedral by six priests and was to be laid to rest in the archbishop’s crypt at Notre Dame in line with tradition.
A casket containing earth from the Monastery of St Georges Kosiba near Jericho and the garden on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, was to be placed with his coffin.
The funeral, presided over by Cardinal Lustiger’s successor, was held at Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 August 2007. Sarkozy, on vacation in the United States, returned to attend Lustiger’s funeralIn homage to Lustiger’s Jewish heritage, the Kaddish—the traditional hymn of praise of God’s name—was recited by his cousin Arno Lustiger in front of the portal of the cathedral.
His epitaph, which he wrote himself in 2004, can be seen in the crypt of Notre-Dame Cathedral, and translates as:
I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.
† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris
Prayer and Reflection: Thank you Lord for this outstanding Jewish believer in Yeshua – his depth of faith and wisdom, and his devotion to you. Help us to learn from his example and follow you in all that we do. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
On his conversion
“I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that’s
unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is
bringing light to the goyim. That’s my hope and I believe
that Christianity is the means for achieving it.”
“I am not leaving you. I am not passing into the
enemy camp. I’m becoming what I am. I am not stopping
being a Jew — just the opposite. I’m discovering
a way of living it.”
“I am a Cardinal, a Jew. and the son of an immigrant.”
On being appointed Archbishop of Paris
“For me, this nomination was as if all of a sudden
the crucifix began to wear a yellow star.”
On the Holocaust
“The silence of
victims impels us to
uphold and order the
upholding of the dignity
of each human
On Jewish and Christian relations
“It is impossible for a Christian to be a Christian
… without the Jewish people.”
“What Christians believe, they got through the
“Jews and Christians are the guardians of the
revelation of the Only One God and of his design to
bring all humans together one day.”
“Christianity is the fruit of Judaism.”
On inter-religious dialogue
“All around the world, the intermixing of various
populations now brings side by side very different
religious faiths, and this leads to unprecedented
“This question is how to articulate the history and
geography of our communities with the history and geography
of modernity. Nowhere else perhaps than here
in New York has a better answer been experienced.”
“The strength of evil can only be answered with
an even greater strength of love,”
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jew who converted to Catholicism and rose through church hierarchy to become one of the most influential Roman Catholic figures in France, died Sunday, the Paris archbishop’s office said. He was 80.
Lustiger – whose Polish immigrant mother died in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz – was archbishop of Paris for 24 years before stepping down in 2005 at the age of 78. Lustiger died in a hospice in Paris, the archbishop’s office said. A cause of death was not immediately provided.
For years, Lustiger was the public face of the church in mainly Roman Catholic France, speaking out on critical issues and serving as a voice of calm wisdom in tumultuous times.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said the country had lost a great figure of spiritual, moral, intellectual and naturally religious life. Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois said Lustiger’s reflections, and his personal history, led him to play an important role in the evolution of relations between Jews and Christians.
Lustiger kept largely silent on the tragedy of his mother Gisele, killed at the hands of the Nazis. But during France’s National Day of Remembrance to commemorate the deportation and death of French Jews during World War II, Lustiger, taking part in the reading of names in 1999, came to his mother’s.
Gisele Lustiger, he intoned, then added, ma maman (my mama), before continuing, Catholic World News reported.
The strength of evil can only be answered with an even greater strength of love, Lustiger said at an August 2005 Mass in Lodz, Poland, in memory of the more than 200,000 Jews deported from there to Nazi death camps.
A confidante of former Pope John Paul II, Lustiger represented the then-pontiff at commemoration ceremonies for the 60th anniversary in January 2005 of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where his mother died. It was his second trip to Auschwitz, after a 1983 visit.
I don’t want to return, because it is a place of death and destruction, Lustiger told reporters. If I am going, it is because the pope asked me.
Lustiger announced in April 2007 that he was being treated for a grave illness at a Paris hospice for the terminally ill.
On May 31, Lustiger, bound to a wheelchair, made an emotionally charged appearance at the prestigious Academie Francaise to say goodbye to his fellow immortals, as the 40 members of the Academie are known. The author of numerous books, Lustiger was made a member of the Academie Francaise in 1995.
Despite his diminished physical appearance, we felt his fervor, fellow member Jean-Marie Rouart said later.
An atypical archbishop and cardinal, Lustiger appeared to have perfectly synthesized his Jewish heritage with his chosen faith.
Christianity is the fruit of Judaism, he once said.
For me, it was never for an instant a question of denying my Jewish identity. On the contrary, he said in Le Choix de Dieu (The Choice of God), conversations published in 1987.
Born Aaron Lustiger on Sept. 17, 1926 in Paris to Polish immigrant parents who ran a hosiery shop, he was sent to the town of Orleans, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of the capital, to take refuge from the occupying Nazis. There, Lustiger, who was not a practicing Jew, converted to Catholicism in 1940 at the age of 14, taking the name Jean-Marie.
Two years later, his mother was deported to Auschwitz.
He was ordained a priest in April 17, 1954, in Paris, after earning degrees in philosophy and theology from the Catholic Institute’s Carmes Seminary. For 15 years, he served as chaplain to students at the Sorbonne University, reportedly zipping on a motorbike through the winding streets of the Latin Quarter, the Left Bank student neighborhood.
Lustiger was appointed pastor of the Sainte Jeanne de Chantal parish, holding the post for 10 years until 1979, the year he began his swift climb up the hierarchy.
Named bishop of Orleans in 1979, Lustiger was named archbishop of Paris in 1981. Two years later, in 1983, Pope John-Paul II made him a cardinal.
Despite his role as a prince of the Church, Lustiger remained an eminently grass roots figure, creating a Christian radio station, Radio Notre Dame, in 1981 and expounding on issues ranging from the August 2003 heat wave that killed thousands of people in France to the building of a united Europe.
In contrast, Lustiger kept his personal journey of conversion a mostly private matter. However, he called for a true dialogue between Christians and Jews in a 2002 book, La Promesse (The Promise) that delved into Judeo-Christian relations and the mystery of Israel. He specified that Israel in the book was the biblical reference to the Hebrews, not the Jewish state.
The book is a collection of oral meditations made in 1979 to a community of monks as well as more recent addresses at several Jewish conferences.
In an October 2003 interview in the French daily Le Figaro, Lustiger said that the center of living gravity of the Church was moving from its old center to Africa, the Americas and elsewhere, and predicted that, in the third millennium, Asia would become the new land of evangelization.
A funeral Mass for Lustiger was to be held Friday at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Paris archbishop’s office said.