Originally named Aaron Lustiger, he was born Sept. 17, 1926, in Paris. His parents were Polish immigrants and nonpracticing Jews.
In what was said to be one of the few times he dealt publicly at length with his religious conversion, he told editors of an Israeli newspaper that his parents were upset. He said he told them, "I am not leaving you. I am not passing into the enemy camp. I'm becoming what I am. I am not stopping being a Jew -- just the opposite. I'm discovering a way of living it."
After the Nazis invaded France in 1940, he was sent to live with a Catholic family in Orleans. He was baptized that year, under the name Jean-Marie Lustiger. His father escaped the Nazis by going into hiding. His mother, who tried to maintain the family's textile business, was arrested and deported.
At a French day of remembrance for the deported, he read some of the victims' names. After reading "Gisele Lustiger," according to the Associated Press, he added "ma maman" (my mother).
He was ordained in 1954, served for 15 years as chaplain at the University of Paris, came to the attention of Pope John Paul II and, after a period as a parish priest, was named in 1979 to be bishop of Orleans. In 1981, Cardinal Lustiger was made archbishop of Paris.
From Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (1926–2007): An Appreciation, by George Weigel. First Things "On The Square" August 6, 2007:
Because he came from a human world outside the worlds-within-worlds of French Catholicism, Jean-Marie Lustiger could see things perhaps more clearly than others. He could see, for example, that both the conventional “left” and “right” options among French Catholics were, in fact, no options, for both imagined the Church wedded to worldly power: in one case, the power of the revolution (however it might be conceived); in the other, the power of the old order. The Church, as Lustiger understood it, was not in the business of aligning itself with worldly power of any sort. The Church was in the business of evangelization, of service, of mission, of witness to the truths about the dignity of the human person on which the rights of man most securely rest. The Church’s public business was forming a culture of authentic freedom that could then form the kind of citizens who can live freedom nobly, rather than meanly or selfishly.
To meet Jean-Marie Lustiger was to meet a man of God: He was a wonderful human being—intelligent, caring, funny in a wry way—because he had been transformed by the power of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. His great desire was that others might share in the gift that he had been given, the gift of faith. That gift led him to read situations in their true depth, often against the grain of the conventional wisdom. And this was another quality he shared with the late John Paul II—the quality of reading the dynamics of history in depth. Like the man who took a great risk in appointing him archbishop of Paris, Lustiger (who took no less a risk in accepting John Paul’s appointment) understood that the most dynamic force in history over time is neither politics nor economics but rather culture: what men and women honor, cherish, and worship; what men and women are willing to stake their lives on.
And at the heart of culture, Lustiger knew, is cult: the act of worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whether the object of our worship is worthy. Jean-Marie Lustiger lived, led, and died in the conviction that the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus is true worship, worship that can shape a truly liberating humanism. That is why everyone whose life he touched was the richer for the encounter.
- A touching story from Nova Et Vetera
- Cardinal Lustiger in his own words - Times Online August 7, 2007:
“I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that's unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That's my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.”
- "He'd say Kaddish for his mother" - by Daniel Ben Simon. Haaretz
- "You Were a Manner of Miracle" - from Rocco Palmo, a translation of La Croix account of the Cardinal's funeral.
- Tributes flow in for Paris archbishop Lustiger AFP and EJP [European Jewish Press]:
Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the umbrella group of French secular organizations, voiced his sadness, saying Lustiger had played a "considerable historic role" in improving ties between Jews and Catholics, accompanying John Paul on his landmark trip to the Holy Land in 2000.
Prasquier, who travelled with Lustiger two years ago to Auschwitz, where his mother Gisele died in a Nazi gas chamber, said the cardinal had always "shown a great fraternity towards his community of origin."
Daniel Shek, Israel’s ambassador to France, paid tribute to the memory of Lustiger. Related story
"He held a very particular place in the heart of the Israelis," he said.
France’s chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, emphasized that Lustiger had played an “essential role” in the dialogue between Jews and Christians.
“My most moving souvenir is my last meeting with him at the hospital. “He told me again that he would never repudiate himself as a Jew, on the contrary. He said he was still Aaron and Cardinal Lustiger as well,” Sitruk said.
"This double identity make us become friends spontaneously," the rabbi said.
- Excellent round-ups by Eagle & Elephant and Blog By the Sea.