dieu vous garde

Jean-Marie Lustiger

Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger (French pronunciation: ) (September 17, 1926August 5, 2007) was a French prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was Archbishop of Paris from 1981 until his resignation in 2005. He was made a Cardinal in 1983.

Early years

Lustiger was born Aaron Lustiger in Paris, to non-practicing Ashkenazi Jews from Będzin, Charles and Gisèle Lustiger, who left Poland around World War I . Lustiger's father ran a hosiery shop. Aaron Lustiger studied at the Lycée Montaigne in Paris , where he first encountered anti-Semitism . Visiting Germany in 1937, he was hosted by an anti-Nazi Protestant family whose children had been required to join the Hitler Youth .

Sometime between the ages of ten and twelve, Lustiger came across a Protestant Bible and felt inexplicably attracted to it. On the outbreak of war in September 1939 the family located to Orléans..

In March 1940, during Holy Week, the 13-year old Lustiger decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. On August 21 he was baptized as Aaron Jean-Marie by the Bishop of Orléans, Jules Marie Courcoux. His sister converted later. In October 1940, the Vichy regime passed the first Statute on Jews, which forced Jews to wear a yellow badge. Although Jean-Marie Lustiger lived hidden in Orléans, his parents had to wear the badge .

Lustiger, his father and sister later sought refuge in unoccupied southern France, while his mother returned to Paris to run the family business. In September 1942, his mother was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and died the following year. The surviving family returned to Paris after the war.. Lustiger's father tried unsuccessfully to have his son's baptism annulled, and even sought the help of the chief rabbi of Paris.

Early career

Lustiger graduated from the Sorbonne with a literature degree in 1946. He then entered the seminary of the Carmelite fathers in Paris, and later the Institut Catholique de Paris. After his first travel to Israel in 1951, he was ordained to the priesthood on April 17 1954 by Bishop Émile-Arsène Blanchet, rector of the Institut Catholique de Paris . From 1954 to 1959, he was a chaplain at the Sorbonne, and for the next ten years, the director of Richelieu Centre, which trains university chaplains and receives lay teachers and students for counsel, who came from grandes écoles such as the ENS-Fontenay-Saint-Cloud or the Ecole des Chartes. From 1969 to 1979, he was vicar of Sainte-Jeanne-de-Chantal, in the wealthy XVIe arrondissement of Paris, with as parochial vicar the abbot André Vingt-Trois, who would later become his successor as Archbishop of Paris.

On November 10 1979, Lustiger was appointed by Pope John Paul II Bishop of Orléans after a 15-month vacancy . John Paul II had been counselled by Cardinal Bertoli, who was more than reticent towards a new illustrated Catechism for urban youth (Pierres vivantes) and was on bad terms with most of the French clergy .

Lustiger received episcopal consecration on the following December 8 from Cardinal François Marty, with Archbishop Eugène Ernoult of Sens and Bishop Daniel Pézeril serving as co-consecrators. Lustiger avoided all reference to his liberal predecessor Guy-Marie Riobé, a pacifist close to the Catholic Action, when installed as bishop .

Archbishop of Paris (1981-2005)

He was promoted, on January 31 1981, to Archbishop of Paris, succeeding to François Marty. According to Georges Suffert, he was supported by a letter to John Paul II written by André Frossard . The Archbishop and founder of the Traditionalist Catholic group Society of St. Pius X Marcel Lefebvre criticized this nomination, complaining that the function was given to "someone who is not truly of French origin. " On the other hand, Lustiger's nomination was soon seen as a defeat by the French clergy who supported the Second Vatican Council .

A first-rate communicator and a personal friend to Jean Gélamur, the boss of the Catholic media group Bayard Presse , Lustiger was particularly attentive to the media and developed Catholic radio and television channels (Radio Notre-Dame) after François Mitterrand's liberalization of French media in 1981 (and then KTO TV in 1999, which has become a financial disaster ). Lustiger also created a new seminary for the training of priests, by-passing the existing arrangements.

Considered quite authoritarian, which earned him the nickname "Bulldozer" , Lustiger deposed the general vicars Michel Guittet and Pierre Gervaise, had Georges Gilson evacuated to Le Mans and Emile Marcus to Nantes, fully headed the meetings of the episcopal council, and ordered numerous other mutations . He also dismantled P. Béguerie's team in Saint-Séverin . In October 1981, the French bishops preferred to elect the more liberal Jean Vilnet as President of the Episcopal Conference, with whom Lustiger remained throughout his life on difficult terms . In 1982, he invited for the celebration of Lent in Notre-Dame Roger Etchegaray (whom he disliked at first) and the traditionalist Jesuit Roger Heckel . He participated in the yearly meeting of the movement Comunione e Liberazione in Rimini in summer 1982 .

The Archbishop of Paris then invited Cardinal Ratzinger to Notre-Dame in January 1983, where the latter criticized new versions of Catechism proposed by a large part of the French clergy . He was then created Cardinal Priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of February 2 1983, at the same time as the conservative Jesuit Henri de Lubac ; one year later, on November 26, he was named Cardinal Priest of San Luigi dei Francesi. Now a Cardinal, Lustiger began to attract international attention. An obscure Prophecy of Malachy, who spoke of a Jewish Pope, strengthened a rumor about him being papabile .

Cardinal Lustiger carried out several reforms in the Archdiocese of Paris, concerning the priests' formation, or creating in 1984 an independent theological faculty in the École cathédrale de Paris, discrete from the Institut Catholique. He supported the construction of seven new churches in Paris, as well as the development of Charismatic movements such as the Emmanuel Community (of which he was in charge until June 2006, on the request of Pope John Paul II) or the Chemin Neuf Community, which was recognized in 1984 by the Vatican as a Association of the Faithful. Some parishes were handed out to such Charismatic movements. In Paris, he ordained 200 priests, who represented 15 percent of the French total, drawn from a diocese which had two per cent of the French population . Strongly attached to the ideal of priestly celibacy as Ordinary for Orientals he prevented the deployment of married eastern-rite Catholic priests in France.Lustiger was favourable to the development of a permanent deaconate filled mainly by married men involved in the workplace.

He led in 1984 a mass rally in protest at Versailles which gathered conservatives opposed to the Savary Law, which organized a reduction in state aid to private (and mostly Catholic) education, thus taking by speed his comrades Jean Vilnet, Paul Guiberteau and Jean Honoré, who were in charge of the issue . Shortly afterwards Alain Savary had to resign. This opposition cemented Lustiger's relations with the social groups supportive of private education from whose midst he was to draw most of his candidates for the priesthood. He nevertheless supported the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State, although, when auditioned by the Commission Stasi on secularism, he opposed the 2004 law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools .

The Cardinal nominated his right-hand man, André Vingt-Trois, bishop in 1988. Following Marcel Lefebvre's schism in June 1988, Lustiger tried to attenuate tensions with the Traditionalist Catholics, celebrating a Tridentine Mass. . He sent the reactionary priest Patrick Le Gal as his emissary to Lefebvre . Along with Cardinal Decourtray, he strongly criticized Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, clashing with the liberal bishop Jacques Gaillot .

Beside clerical contacts, Archbishop of Paris also maintained contacts with the political world, which he often opposed, although he maintained rather good working relations with François Mitterrand's Socialist government, despite their political rift . Thus, during the celebrations of the 200 years anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989, he opposed the Minister of Culture Jack Lang concerning the Pantheonization of the Abbé Grégoire, one of the first priest to take oath on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. For this, he was criticized by the liberal Catholic review Golias . He then deposed the priest Alain Maillard de La Morandais from his diplomatic functions towards the political sphere, as he considered him to be too pro-Balladur during the 1995 presidential campaign . Despite his opposition to Mitterrand's various governments, as archbishop of Paris he presided over the latter's funeral following his death.

Although the Cardinal was never elected as head of the Conférence des évêques de France (French Episcopal Conference) by his peers, with whom he was not popular, Lustiger succeeded in being elected a member of the Académie Française in 1995, succeeding Albert Decourtray and bypassing Paul Poupard . Two years later, he organized a World Youth Day in Paris, attended by more than a million people .

Theology and ethics

Like all the senior prelates appointed by Pope John Paul II, Lustiger upheld papal authority in these areas of theology and morals: \"There are opinions and there is faith,\" he said in 1997. \"When it is faith, I agree with the Pope because I am responsible for the faith.\" A \"Modern Traditionalist\" , Cardinal Lustiger was a strong believer in priestly celibacy and opposed abortion and the ordination of women . Although he fully endorsed John Paul II's views on bioethics, he considered contraception acceptable if one of the partners had HIV . Indeed, he founded the NGO Tibériade which accompanied AIDS patients .

He considered Christianity to be the accomplishment of Judaism, and the New Testament to be the logical continuation of the Old Testament. In Le Choix de Dieu (The Choice of God, 1987), he declared that modern anti-Semitism was the product of the Enlightenment, whose philosophy he attacked . At the same time, Cardinal Lustiger refused to align himself with the Traditionalist Catholics, and did not paint as somber a picture as had Cardinal Ratzinger a short time before .

He read the Thomistic philosophers Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain — one of the main Catholic thinker of his youth — as well as Jean Guitton, but also the Protestant philosopher Paul Ricœur, and then Maurice Clavel, or the philosopher of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre . Close to Augustinism, he preferred the post-conciliary theologist Louis Bouyer to the neo-Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange . His main influence was the later Henri de Lubac, as well as the Jesuits Albert and Paul Chapelle . Lustiger, unlike other leading twentieth-century French bishops, did not draw noticeably on patristic writings and was more sensitive to rabbinic texts.

When appointed to Paris he encouraged a certain number of liberal clergy to return to the lay state. He was influential in the appointment of his moderate conciliar auxiliary Georges Gilson to the See of Le Mans, replacing senior clergy with men who shared similar views to his own.

He pursued the official policy of ecumenism but gave an address highly critical of Anglicanism when welcoming Archbishop Robert Runcie to Notre Dame . In 1995 Lustiger played a key role in deposing the liberal bishop of Évreux, Jacques Gaillot. Gaillot was then appointed to the titular see of Partenia.

Lustiger was also an outspoken opponent of racism and anti-Semitism. He had been strongly critical of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, comparing Le Pen's xenophobic views to Nazism. "We have known for 50 years that the theory of racial inequality can be deadly...It entails outrages," Lustiger has said. "The Christian faith says that all men are equal in dignity because they are all created in the image of God". While supporting the actions of the parish priest of St. Bernard-de-la-Chapelle in accepting the protracted sit-in of a group of illegal aliens in 1996, Lustiger subsequently showed less sympathy to such activities The police were called to a similar sit-in at St.Merry.

He incurred the hostility of some quarters of the Spanish Church because he strongly opposed the project to canonise Queen Isabella I of Castile. In 1974, Pope Paul VI had opened her cause for beatification. This places her on the path toward possible sainthood. In the Catholic Church, she is thus titled Servant of God. Lustiger's opposition was due to the fact that Isabella -with her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon- had created the Spanish Inquisition, virulently persecuted Jews and had had many muslims killed after her entrance to Cordoba. Lustiger had placed his resignation as Archbishop of Paris in the hands of Pope John Paul II -as required by canon law- when he reached the age of 75 in 2001. The Pope had allowed it to lie in the file. In the last weeks of the Pope's life, when he was already incapable of conducting the affairs of the church (as Lustiger himself said in a radio interview at the time) Lustiger's resignation and the appointment of the successor whom he himself had recommended were suddenly announced without advance notice to him and apparently with neither the knowledge nor the consent of the semi-conscious Pontiff. The presence in the dying Pope's entourage of supporters of Isabella's canonisation did not go unnoticed.

Lustiger was a favorite of Pope John Paul II, partly because of his Polish background and partly because he staunchly upheld the Pope's conservative views in the face of much hostility from liberal Catholic opinion in France. This led to some speculation that Lustiger would be a candidate to succeed John Paul II, but he always refused to discuss any such possibility. He was, however, one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Relations with the Jewish world

Along with Cardinal Francis Arinze and Bishop Jean-Baptiste Gourion of Jerusalem , , Lustiger was one of only three prelates of his time who were converts to the Roman Catholic faith and he and Gourion were the only two who were born Jewish and still considered themselves 'Jewish' all their lives. He said he was proud of his Jewish origins and described himself as a "fulfilled Jew", for which he was mercilessly chastised by Christians and Jews alike. Former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Israel Lau of Israel publicly denounced Lustiger. Lau accused Lustiger of betraying the Jewish people by converting to Catholicism. Others argue that being "Jewish" is both an ethnic designation and a religious one, so Lustiger's claim that he is still a Jew is not as controversial as it seems. Lustiger's strong support for the State of Israel, which conflicts with the Vatican's officially neutral position, also won him Jewish support.

On becoming Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger said:

"I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it."

The former chief rabbi of France, Rabbi René Samuel Sirat, says he personally witnessed Lustiger entering the synagogue to recite kaddish - the Jewish mourners' prayer - for his mother.

Cardinal Lustiger gained recognition after negotiating in 1987 with representatives of the organized Jewish community, (including Théo Klein, the former president of the CRIF) , the departure of the Carmelite nuns who built a convent in Auschwitz concentration camp (See Auschwitz cross) . He represented the Pope John Paul II in January 2005 during the commemorations for the 60th year of the liberation of Auschwitz camp by the Allies . He was also in Birkenau along with the new Pope Benedict XVI in May 2006 .

In 1995 Cardinal Lustiger attended with a group of French rabbis the reading of an act of repentance, during which Catholic authorities apologized for the French Church's passive attitude towards the Collaborationism policies enacted by the Vichy regime during World War II .

In 1998, Lustiger was awarded the Nostra Aetate Award for advancing Catholic-Jewish relations by the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding, an interfaith group housed on the campus of Sacred Heart University, a Catholic university at Fairfield, Connecticut in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, protested the award, saying it was "inappropriate" to honour Lustiger, who was born a Jew but left the faith. "It's fine to have him speak at a conference or colloquium," said the league's national director Abraham Foxman. "But I don't think he should be honored because he converted out, which makes him a poor example." In France, however, Lustiger enjoyed good relations with the Jewish community. Théo Klein observed that although conversions usually carry out negative connotations in the Jewish world, it was not so with the Cardinal . Klein called Lustiger "his cousin ."

In 2006, Lustiger visited Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and spoke, addressing the students and faculty of the rabbinical school along with fellow visiting European bishops.

The World Jewish Congress paid homage to him after his death .

Retirement and death

On February 11 2005, Lustiger's retirement was accepted and André Vingt-Trois, a former auxiliary bishop of Paris who had become Archbishop of Tours, was named to succeed him as Archbishop of Paris.

Lustiger made his final public appearance in January 2007. He died on August 5 2007 at a clinic outside Paris where he had been battling bone and lung cancer since April. Le Figaro, and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, announced Lustiger's death .

The funeral, presided over by Cardinal Lustiger's successor, was held at the Notre Dame Cathedral on August 10, 2007. Sarkozy, on vacation in the United States, shortened his second break since his election in order to attend Lustiger's funerals . In homage to Lustiger's Jewish heritage, the Kaddish prayer was recited by his cousin Arno Lustiger in front of the portal of the cathedral.

His epitaph, which he wrote himself in 2004, reads:

I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.

† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris



  • Sermons d’un curé de Paris (1978)
  • Pain de vie et peuple de Dieu (1981)
  • Osez croire (1985)
  • Osez vivre (1985)
  • Premiers pas dans la prière (1986)
  • Prenez place au cœur de l’Église (1986)
  • Six sermons aux élus de la Nation, 1981-1986 (1987)
  • Le Choix de Dieu. Entretiens avec Jean-Louis Missika et Dominique Wolton (1987)
  • La Messe (1988)
  • Dieu merci, les droits de l’homme (1990)
  • Le Sacrement de l’onction des malades (1990)
  • Le Saint-Ayoul de Jeanclos (in collaboration with Alain Peyrefitte, 1990)

  • Nous avons rendez-vous avec l’Europe (1991)
  • Dare to rejoice (American compilation) (1991)
  • Petites paroles de nuit de Noël (1992)
  • Devenez dignes de la condition humaine (1995)
  • Le Baptême de votre enfant (1997)
  • Soyez heureux (1997)
  • Pour l'Europe, un nouvel art de vivre (1999)
  • Les prêtres que Dieu donne (2000)
  • Comme Dieu vous aime. Un pèlerinage à Jérusalem, Rome et Lourdes (2001)
  • La Promesse (2002)
  • Comment Dieu ouvre la porte de la foi (2004)


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