PARIS (Jul. 13)
France’s Roman Catholic Church is planning to apologize next month to the Jewish community for its collaboration with the country’s wartime pro-Nazi Vichy regime.
The French church’s decision to seek forgiveness from France’s 700,000-strong Jewish community conforms with Pope John Paul II’s 1994 call on all Catholic churches to acknowledge the evils of anti-Semitism and to engage in reconciliation with world Jewry.
Jean-Marie Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris, announced at a news conference that reconciliation ceremonies would be held during the pope’s visit to Paris on Aug. 21-24.
Lustiger was born Jewish but converted to Catholicism as a teen-ager during the war.
His mother, one of some 75,000 Jews deported from France, perished at Auschwitz.
There has been reluctance in France to acknowledge the church’s support for Vichy leader Marshall Philippe Petain, who signed the anti-Semitic law in October 1940 that banned Jews from most professions.
Petain later authorized the arrests and deportations of French Jews that were carried out mainly by French police, who turned the Jewish deportees over to the Nazis.
Henri Hajdenberg, president of CRIF, the umbrella group of secular French Jewish organizations, applauded the French church’s decision.
“The French Catholic Church has made a recognition, and it’s important because we have waited for this type of declaration for 10 years, especially on the relation between the teachings of Catholicism and anti-Semitism,” said Hajdenberg.
The French Catholic Church will also apologize during next month’s ceremonies for its past persecutions of French Protestants.
During his visit, the pope is expected to recognize centuries of Christian intolerance toward Jews and other religious minorities.
And at a symposium to be held at the Vatican in the fall, the pope is scheduled to give a speech criticizing the church’s history of anti-Semitism.