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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