The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/press/archbishop-converted



 Archbishop's Israel visit prompts betrayal charges
    By Howard Goller
 
   JERUSALEM, April 25 (Reuter) - A visit by the Jewish-born
 Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris has drawn harsh criticism
 from Israel's chief rabbi and revived a bitter debate over the
 church's response to the Nazi Holocaust.
    Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau accused Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger
 of betraying the Jewish people by converting to Catholicism at
 the age of 13 during the Holocaust which killed six million
 Jews.
    The archbishop arrived in Israel on Monday to take part in a
 multi-faith conference at Tel Aviv University on why God kept
 silent during the World War Two slaughter.
    Lustiger, whose mother died in a Nazi death camp, will also
 visit Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial on Thursday to mark
 Israel's annual remembrance day of the Holocaust.
    ``I regard (the visit) very severely because we are talking
 about someone who betrayed his people and his faith during the
 most difficult and darkest of periods in 1940,'' Lau told Israel
 Radio on Sunday.
    ``Lustiger's image and lifestyle only strengthen Jewish
 assimilation instead of helping us fight it,'' said Lau, who as
 a child survived the Buchenwald death camp and now is chief
 Ashkenazi rabbi for Jews with origins in eastern Europe.
    ``If we take Lustiger as a model, not one Jew will be left
 in the world to recite the prayer for the dead,'' he said.
    Lustiger's Polish-Jewish immigrant parents hid him in a
 Catholic boarding school when he was 13 as Germany occupied
 France in 1940. He converted during the war and went on to
 become a priest. His mother was captured in 1942 and gassed at
 Auschwitz.
    Lustiger responded to the charges on Tuesday, saying he had
 never repudiated his Jewish origins.
    ``For me to say that I am no longer a Jew would be to deny
 my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am a
 Jew in the same measure as all my other relatives...(who were)
 butchered in Auschwitz or in other camps,'' he told Israel
 Television.
    He said he was willing to meet Lau to defuse the tension.
    Israeli Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said there was
 no official government view on the affair but Lustiger would be
 received as an honoured guest at Yad Vashem.
    Rubinstein said the affair had raised sensitivities still
 very much alive 50 years after the Holocaust, telling Reuters:
 ``The chief rabbi's position is not only his own but he probably
 expresses the point of view of many, many Israelis.''
    Rubinstein said many convents and monasteries had saved Jews
 from the Nazis, but Israelis would never forget the silence of
 the Catholic church while Jews were systematically slaughtered.
    Rubinstein said Jewish-Catholic relations had also vastly
 improved.
    Pope John Paul, who established full diplomatic ties with
 Israel last year, said in February the memory of the Holocaust
 should serve to bring Jews and Roman Catholics closer.
 


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