Paris (Feb. 2)
– A 54-year-old Jewish convert to Catholicism, Msgr. Jean-Marie Lustiger, was appointed today by Pope John Paul II Archbishop of Paris, the top past in France’s Roman Catholic Church. Lustiger, who served until now as Bishop of Orleans, was converted at the age of 14 after his parents, Polish Jewish immigrants to France, hid him with a Catholic family during the Nazi occupation. Both his parents were deported.
Lustiger’s mother died in Auschwitz in 1943. His father returned to France after the war. He and his son were close but the elder Lustiger never managed to convince him to abandon the church and return to Judaism.
Lustiger has never tried to hide his Jewish origins and has repeatedly stressed his contacts with the Jewish people. Interviewed on television he declared himself “first and foremost a Jew and the son of a Jewish martyr.” In spite of this, Lustiger is known as a “traditionalist” within the church and whose views are believed to be close to those of the Pope.
MAY BE APPOINTED CARDINAL
Lustiger, who reportedly still speaks Yiddish and Polish, will probably be appointed to the rank of Cardinal which normally goes with the Paris post. At 54, he is one of the youngest Archbishops of Paris and is believed to be the first Jewish convert to attain such rank.
The new Archbishop, who visited Israel on several occasions has always tried to develop relations with Jews and Jewish organizations. He is known to be a personal friend of the Pope but also was the choice of the outgoing Paris Archbishop, Cardinal Marty.
Lustiger spent most of his teen years with the Catholic family in Orleans and was officially converted and baptised in 1941, at his request. After the war he studied sociology and law and attended the Catholic seminary where he was ordained in 1951. He served for 10 years as Paris University chaplain and in 1979 was ordained Bishop of Orleans.