For other stories from this series refer to ‘Cardinal Stories‘ category from the sidebar (>>>) … scroll down, quite a bit.
cf. Australian George Pell’s views on Jews in this Oct. 11, 2012 Cardinal Story.
Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger was born in Paris, France on September 17, 1926. His parents, Charles (a hosier) and Gisèle Lustiger had left Poland somewhere around the time of WW I and are portrayed as nonobservant Ashkenazi Jews (a branch with its roots in medieval Germany). Aaron attended the storied Paris secondary school, Lycée Montaigne in the 6th arrondissement. He is said to have first run into anti-Semitism at the Lycée (which was probably to be expected). It is said that he visited Germany in 1937 and stayed with ‘anti-Nazi Protestant family’ whose children (à la the current pope) had no choice but to join the ‘Hitler Youth‘. Why he would be visiting Germany at the age of 11 is, however, a bit of a mystery. As the story goes, around this time, maybe when was with this German Protestant family, he serendipitously stumbled upon a Protestant Bible and found it surprisingly compelling (though it is not made clear as to what parts of it, e.g., the Old Testament, that he found attractive). Two years after he returned from his mysterious trip to Germany (he really was too young to have been a bona fide spy), his family moved from Paris to Orléans (with an implication here that this might have in some way have to do with them having been Jewish).
Per some sourced he (or they) lived with a Christian family in Orléans — and yet again, as with his sojourn to Germany there is no explanation why this happened, given that his parents, who owned a hosiery shop in Paris, probably had the resources and contacts to get their own digs. Anyway, what is known is that on August 21 (or 25), 1940, aged 13, he was baptized by Jules Marie Courcoux, Bishop of Orléans, as Aaron Jean-Marie – Aaron allegedly having decided 6 months ago, during Holy Week, to become a Catholic. Per some accounts he change his name from ‘Aaron’ to ‘Jean-Marie’ upon Baptism. It is documented that his mother, who returned to Paris to to run their store, was arrested by the Gestapo and died in Auschwitz on February 13, 1943. Aaron Jean-Marie stayed in Orléans, in semi-hiding, though now as a Catholic he did not have to wear a Yellow Badge designating Jewishness.
In 1946, now 20, Lustiger graduated from Sorbonne (the highly respected University of Paris) with a degree in literature. He joined a Carmelite run seminary shortly afterwards. He visited Israel in 1951 (aged 25). He was ordained a priest on April 17, 1954 (aged 27).
In November 10, 1979 (aged 53) he was appointed Bishop of Orléans (the seat having been vacant for 15 months). On January 31, 1981 (aged 54) he was promoted to be Archbishop of Paris. Upon his promotion, he proclaimed: “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.”
He was created a cardinal priest on February 2, 1983.
In 1995, he a again visited Israel. Yisrael Meir Lau, the Ashkenazic chief rabbi and a concentration camp survivor, accused Cardinal Lustiger of having betrayed his people and his faith during the most difficult and darkest of periods in the 1940 and categorically dismissed the assertion that the cardinal had remained a Jew. Cardinal Lustiger responded: “To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.”
He echoed this theme in the epitaph that he wrote for himself, in 2004, prior to his death on February 11, 2005: “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.”