Converted Jew Named a Cardinal and a Prince of the Catholic Church
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Converted Jew Named a Cardinal and a Prince of the Catholic Church

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Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris and a converted Jew, was appointed yesterday a Cardinal and a Prince of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican sources said that as far as they knew, he is the first Jew to achieve this rank. He will be officially installed by Pope John Paul II during a Vatican ceremony. February 2. Lustiger was one of 18 new Cardinals named by the Pontiff.

The 56-year-old prelate, born in France to a family of Polish Jewish immigrants, was appointed Archbishop of Paris in February 1981. He said at the time, “Yes, I am Jewish and I am conscious of it. I don’t feel any sense of betrayal towards my Jewish brethren. Like them, I have known the scorn, the persecution, the rejection and tragedy of history.”

Lustiger said upon his nomination that he will henceforth “carry an even greater load.” He said “this (appointment) is more of an additional responsibility than an honor,” He also said European culture, civilization and spirit are based “on Jewish-Christian traditions.”

Born in 1926, Lustiger lived a normal life in a non-traditional Jewish family till the Nazi invasion of France. Given for safe-keeping to a Roman Catholic family in Orleans, he converted to their faith in 1944. He studied at the Sorbonne, worked in a factory and was ordained a priest in 1954, becoming chaplain to Paris University Catholic students.

His father and his sister, married to a Jewish doctor, attended the ceremonies which marked his appointment as Bishop of Orleans in 1979 and his installation as Archbishop of Paris, His mother died in Auschwitz where she was deported by the Nazis.

Both Lustiger and his family have always refused to discuss “private affairs” but the new Cardinal has invariably shown a keen interest in Jewish affairs and had said he had planned at one time to settle in Israel He speaks and reads Hebrew.

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