Jewish cardinal laid to rest

Sunday, August 12, 2007 |  Shlomo Mordechai

The kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead) mixed with rites of the Roman Catholic Church, as Jews and Christians alike bade farewell to Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the former archbishop of Paris who was born Jewish. Lustiger, 80, was buried at the majestic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and eulogized as a symbol of reconciliation and inter-faith dialogue.

“In fidelity to his origins, he contributed in a particularly significant way to fraternal dialogue between Christians and Jews,” Pope Benedict said in a message.

Born Aaron Lustiger in 1926 in Paris to Polish immigrant parents who ran a hosiery shop, he was sent to the town of Orleans, 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 where she was killed.

Though a Catholic, Lustiger never lost sight of his Jewish roots. At his request, a marble plaque inside the cathedral will bear the inscription: “I was born a Jew. I received the name of my paternal grandfather Aaron. Christian by faith and by baptism, I remained a Jew, as did the Apostles.”

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