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French Jewry Will Honor Catholic Bishop Who Fought for Jewish Emancipation

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French Jews, headed by a Chief Rabbi, are preparing to celebrate the centenary of the death of a Catholic Bishop. It was this Bishop, Henri Gregoire, who was more than anyone else responsible for the emancipation of French Jewry by the Revolutionary Assembly a hundred and forty years ago. He died on May 28, 1831, and so French Jews have already formed a Gregoire Celebration Committee to commemorate next year his role as a fighter for Jewish freedom. This committee is headed by Chief Rabbi Haguenauer of Nancy.

One of the most remarkable figures that the great French Revolution produced, Gregoire, who was a Jesuit priest, fought all his life for the rights of all men, regardless of creed and nationality. When he died his cortege was followed by a crowd of twenty thousand Parisians and the hearse was drawn up to the cemetery by students who had unyoked the horses.

“Fifty thousand Frenchmen arose this morning as slaves: it depends on you whether they shall go to bed as freemen,” thundered Gregoire at the meeting of the Revolutionary Assembly when he put in his motion for the emancipation of the Jews. He also wrote a famous work on the “Regeneration, Physical, Moral and Political, of the Jews,” which won the prize of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences.

During the Terror, in spite of attacks in the Convention, in the press, and in placards on the street corners, Gregoire appeared everywhere in his episcopal dress and daily read Mass in his house. In the face of the Deputies he refused to abjure his religion or his office, and stood ready to face death. His record in the Revolution, however, saved him and he was allowed to have his way.

But when, on the other hand, Napoleon signed a treaty with the Vatican. Gregoire resigned his bishopric. To the last Gregoire remained a devout Catholic, but refused to budge from his revolutionary principles. It was on his motion too that Negroes in the French colonies were emancipated.

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