Jean-Marie Lustiger

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Jean-Marie Lustiger
Cardinal Archbishop of Paris
See Paris
Enthroned 31 January 1981
Reign ended 11 February 2005 (retired)
Predecessor François Marty
Successor André Vingt-Trois
Other posts Bishop of Orléans
Ordination 17 April 1954
Consecration 8 December 1979
Created Cardinal 2 February 1983
Personal details
Born 17 September 1926(1926-09-17)
Died 5 August 2007 (aged 80)

Aaron Lustiger (17 September 1926 – 5 August 2007[1][2]), also known as Jean-Marie Lustiger, was Archbishop of Paris from 1981 until his resignation in 2005.He was created a cardinal in the Conciliar Church 1983 by John Paul II.


Early years

Lustiger was born Aaron Lustiger in Paris, to a Jewish family. His parents, Charles and Gisèle Lustiger, were Ashkenazi Jews from Będzin, Poland, and had left Poland around World War I. [2] Lustiger's father ran a hosiery shop. Aaron Lustiger studied at the Lycée Montaigne in Paris, where he first encountered anti-Semitism.[3][4] Visiting Germany in 1937, he was hosted by an anti-National Socialist Protestant family whose children had been required to join the Hitler Youth.[2][5]

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.[2][5]

In March 1940, during Holy Week, the 13-year old Lustiger decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. On 21 August he was baptized as Aaron Jean-Marie by the Bishop of Orléans, Jules Marie Courcoux. His sister converted later.[6] 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 [3]

Lustiger, his father and sister 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 where she died the following year. The surviving family returned to Paris after the war.[6] Lustiger's father tried unsuccessfully to have his son's baptism annulled, and even sought the help of the chief rabbi of Paris. [7]

Early career

Styles of
Jean-Marie Lustiger
CardinalCoA PioM.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Paris (emeritus)

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 visit to Israel in 1951, he was ordained to the priesthood on 17 April 1954 by Bishop Émile-Arsène Blanchet, rector of the Institut Catholique de Paris.[2] 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 counsels lay teachers and students from grandes écoles such as the ÉNS-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 his parochial vicar André Vingt-Trois, who would later become his successor as Archbishop of Paris.

On 10 November 1979, Lustiger was appointed by Pope John Paul II Bishop of Orléans after a 15-month vacancy.[2] John Paul II had been advised by Cardinal Paolo Bertoli, who was displeased with a new illustrated Catechism for French urban youth (Pierres vivantes) and was on bad terms with most of the French clergy.[8]

Lustiger received episcopal consecration on the 8 December 1979 from Cardinal François Marty, with Archbishop Eugène Ernoult of Sens and Bishop Daniel Pézeril serving as co-consecrators. When installed as bishop, Lustiger avoided all reference to his liberal predecessor Guy-Marie Riobé, a pacifist close to Catholic Action.[2]

Archbishop of Paris (1981-2005)

He was promoted on 31 January 1981, to Archbishop of Paris, succeeding Cardinal Marty. According to Georges Suffert, he was supported by a letter to John Paul II written by André Frossard.[2] The founder of the Traditionalist Catholic group Society of St. Pius X Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre criticized his nomination, observing that the function was given to "someone who is not truly of French origin.[6]" On the other hand, Lustiger's nomination was soon seen as a defeat by liberal French clergy.[8]

A first-rate communicator and a personal friend of Jean Gélamur, head of the Catholic media group Bayard Presse,[8] 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. He founded KTO TV in 1999, which became a financial disaster.[1] Lustiger also founded a new seminary for training priests, by-passing the existing arrangements.

Portrayed as an authoritarian by the media, which gave him the nickname "Bulldozer",[1][6] Lustiger deposed the general vicars Michel Guittet and Pierre Gervaise, had Georges Gilson transferred to Le Mans and Emile Marcus to Nantes, personally headed the meetings of the episcopal council and made numerous other changes.[8] He dismantled P. Béguerie's team in Saint-Séverin.[8] In October 1981, the French bishops elected the more liberal Jean Vilnet as President of the Episcopal Conference, with whom Lustiger was on difficult terms throughout his life.[8] In 1982, he invited for the celebration of Lent in Notre-Dame Roger Etchegaray (whom he disliked at first) and the Jesuit Roger Heckel.[8] He participated in the annual meeting of the movement Comunione e Liberazione in Rimini in summer 1982.[8] In January 1983 he invited Cardinal Ratzinger to Notre-Dame, where the latter criticized new catechisms proposed by a large part of the French clergy.[8]

He was created Cardinal-Priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 2 February 1983, at the same time as the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac;[8] one year later, on 26 November, he was named Cardinal-Priest of San Luigi dei Francesi. Now a cardinal, Lustiger began to attract international attention. The obscure Prophecy of Malachy, which spoke of a Jewish Pope, strengthened a rumour about him being papabile.[8]

Lustiger carried out several reforms in the Archdiocese of Paris concerning priests' formation, creating in 1984 an independent theological faculty in the École cathédrale de Paris, distinct from the Institut Catholique. He constructed seven new churches in Paris and supported the development of charismatic movements such as the Emmanuel Community (of which he was in charge until June 2006) and the Chemin Neuf Community, which was recognized in 1984 by the Vatican as an International Association of the Faithful. Some parishes were entrusted to 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.[5] Strongly attached to the ideal of priestly celibacy he prevented, as Ordinary for Orientals, the deployment of married Eastern Rite Catholic priests in France. He was favourable to the development of a permanent diaconate filled mainly by married men involved in the workplace.

In 1984, he led a mass rally at Versailles in opposition to the Savary Law, which reduced state aid to private (and mostly Catholic) education, outdoing his comrades Jean Vilnet, Paul Guiberteau and Jean Honoré, who were leaders on the issue.[8] Shortly afterwards Alain Savary had to resign. This opposition cemented Lustiger's relations with the groups supporting 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, but, when testifying before the Commission Stasi on secularism, he opposed the 2004 law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools.[9]

Lustiger had his right-hand man, André Vingt-Trois, appointed bishop in 1988. Following Marcel Lefebvre's excommunication by the Conciliar Church in June 1988, Lustiger tried to reduce tensions with the Traditionalist Catholics, celebrating a Tridentine Mass,[8] sending a conservative priest Patrick Le Gal as his emissary to Lefebvre [8] Along with Cardinal Albert Decourtray, he strongly criticised Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, clashing with the liberal bishop Jacques Gaillot.[8]

Beside his clerical contacts, Lustiger maintained contacts with the political world, maintaining rather good working relations with François Mitterrand's Socialist government, despite their political disagreements.[8] Thus, during the celebrations of the second centenary of the French Revolution in 1989, he opposed Minister of Culture Jack Lang about the Pantheonization of the Abbé Grégoire, one of the first priests to take the oath on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. For this, he was criticized by the liberal Catholic review Golias.[10] He 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 [3] Despite his opposition to Mitterrand's governments, he presided as Archbishop of Paris over Mitterrand's funeral.

Lustiger's search for dialogue with politicians led to the establishment in 1992 of the Centre Pastoral d'Etudes politiques at St. Clotilde church in the 7th arrondissement, close to the hub of the French establishment. He sought to identify and conciliate rising national élites in politics and communication. He was less amenable to initiatives from non-French Catholic groups or individuals (their position was inconclusively debated at the Diocesan Synod).

Relations with the cultural sphere were promoted by a series of Lenten Sermons at Notre-Dame (into which dialogue with prominent French intellectuals and state-employed academics were introduced) and by plans for the opening of the Centre St. Bernard in the 5th arrondissement.

Lustiger was never elected as head of the Conférence des évêques de France (French Episcopal Conference) by his peers, with whom he was not popular, but he was elected a member of the Académie Française in 1995, succeeding Albert Decourtray and bypassing Cardinal Paul Poupard.[8] Two years later, he organized a World Youth Day in Paris, attended by more than a million people.[6]

Theology and ethics

Lustiger upheld papal authority in 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." Cardinal Lustiger was a strong believer in priestly celibacy and opposed abortion and the ordination of women.[6] Although he fully endorsed John Paul II's views on bioethics, he considered condom use acceptable if one of the partners had HIV.[8] He founded the Non-Governmental Organization Tibériade to attend to AIDS patients.[8]

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.[3][8]

He read the Catholic Thomistic philosophers Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain — one of the main Neo-Catholic thinkers of his youth — as well as Jean Guitton, but also the Protestant philosopher Paul Ricœur, and Maurice Clavel, and the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.[8] Close to Augustinism, he preferred the post-conciliar theologian Louis Bouyer to the (pre-conciliar) neo-Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.[8] His main influence was Henri de Lubac, as well as the Jesuits Albert and Paul Chapelle.[8] 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 some of the more 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 ecumenism but also gave a critical address of Anglicanism when welcoming Archbishop Robert Runcie to Notre Dame.[citation needed] In 1995, Lustiger played a key role in deposing the liberal bishop of Évreux, Jacques Gaillot, who was then transferred to the titular see of Partenia.

Lustiger was an outspoken opponent of nationalism and stifled any criticism of the Jews. He vocally opposed Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, comparing Le Pen's defense of French ethnic interests to National socialism. "We have known for 50 years that the racial anthropology can be deadly...It entails outrages", Lustiger said. "The Christian faith says that all men are equal in dignity because they are all created in the image of God". He supported the action of the parish priest of St. Bernard-de-la-Chapelle in accepting the protracted sit-in of a group of illegal aliens in 1996, but 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 in 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, which placed her on the path toward possible sainthood. Lustiger's opposition was due to the fact that Isabella and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon had expelled Jews from her domains in 1492.

Lustiger was a favorite of Pope John Paul II. He came from a Polish Jewish background and staunchly upheld the Pope's Neo-Catholic views in the face of much hostility from liberal Catholic opinion in France. This led to some speculation that Lustiger was papabile, but he always refused to discuss any such possibility. He was 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[11] 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.,[12][13] He said he was proud of his Jewish origins and described himself as a "fulfilled Jew," for which he was chastised by Christians and Jews alike. Former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau publicly denounced Lustiger. Lau accused Lustiger of betraying the Jewish people by converting to Catholicism.[14] Lustiger, who claimed that he was still a Jew, considered being "Jewish" as an ethnic designation and not exclusively a religious one. 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.[15]

Cardinal Lustiger gained recognition after negotiating in 1987 with representatives of the organized Jewish community, (including Théo Klein, the former president of the CRIF).,[16] the departure of the Carmelite nuns who built a convent in Auschwitz concentration camp (See Auschwitz cross).[2][6] He represented Pope John Paul II in January 2005 during the 60th-year commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz camp by the Allies.[17] He was also in Birkenau along with the new Pope Benedict XVI in May 2006.[18]

In 1995, Cardinal Lustiger attended the reading of an act of repentance with a group of French rabbis, 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.[6]

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.[19] Klein called Lustiger "his cousin ."[16]

In 2006, Lustiger visited Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and addressed the students and faculty along with fellow visiting European bishops.

The World Jewish Congress paid homage to him after his death.[20]

Retirement and death

When Lustiger reached the age of 75 in 2001, he delivered his resignation as Archbishop of Paris to Pope John Paul II, as required by canon law. The Pope kept it on file for some years. But on 11 February 2005, Lustiger's retirement was accepted and André Vingt-Trois, a former auxiliary bishop of Paris who had become Archbishop of Tours, succeeded him as Archbishop of Paris.

Lustiger made his final public appearance in January 2007. He died on 5 August 2007 at a clinic outside Paris where he had been battling bone and lung cancer since April. Le Figaro, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, announced Lustiger's death.[6]

The funeral, presided over by Cardinal Lustiger's successor, was held at Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 August 2007. Sarkozy, on vacation in the United States, returned to attend Lustiger's funeral.[21][22] 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.[22]

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


Published works

  • 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)
  •[24] website entirely dedicated to his life and works


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Le cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger est mort, Le Monde, 5 August 2007 (French)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Sophie de Ravinel, Le cardinal Lustiger est mort, Le Figaro, 5 August 2007 (French)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Henri Tincq, L'adieu à Jean-Marie Lustiger, Le Monde, 6 August 2007 (French)
  4. Interview with the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth, published in 1982 by the journal Le Débat (quoted by Sophie de Ravinel, Le cardinal Lustiger est mort, Le Figaro, 5 August 2007) (French)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Cardinal Lustiger, The Telegraph, 7 August 2007 (English)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 John Tagliabue, French Catholic leader, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, dies at 80, International Herald Tribune, 6 August 2007 (English)
  7. Cardinal Lustiger, The Telegraph, 7 August 2007
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 Christian Terras, Jean-Marie Lustiger : un colosse aux pieds d’argile, 6 August 2007 (French) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Terras" defined multiple times with different content
  9. La Croix, 24 September 2003 (French)
  10. Quand Mgr Lustiger corrige l’abbé Grégoire, Golias, 4 August 2006 (French)
  14. Archbishop's Israel visit prompts betrayal charges, 26 April, Reuters mirrored by Nizkor Project (English).
  15. Daniel Ben Simon, 'He'd say kaddish for his mother', Haaretz, 7 August 2007 (English)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Théo Klein, Aaron-Jean-Marie Lustiger, mon cousin, Le Monde, 8 August 2007 (French)
  17. Auschwitz : « Il n’est permis à personne de passer avec indifférence », Zenit, 27 January 2005 (French)
  18. Auschwitz: Benoît XVI évoque d’emblée « les victimes de la terreur nazie », Zenit, 25 May 2006 (French)
  19. Catherine Corroler, "Jean-Marie Lustiger, mort d'un cardinal d'action" in Libération, 6 August 2007 Read here (French)
  20. Statement of the World Jewish Congress on the Death of French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, PRNewswire-USNewswire, 6 August 2007 (English)
  21. Nicolas Sarkozy assistera aux obsèques du cardinal Lustiger, L'Express, 9 August 2007 (French)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Sarkozy present at Lustiger's funeral, Jerusalem Post, 10 August 2007 (English)
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Biographical notice of the Académie française (French)

External links

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