Cardinal Lustiger
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 07/08/2007Page 1 of 2

Cardinal Lustiger, who died on Sunday aged 80, was the only Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism to become a French bishop in modern times.

Cardinal Lustiger: ‘a cardinal, a Jew and the son of an immigrant’

Lustiger became a Catholic at 14 during the early days of the German Occupation, and lost his mother two years later when she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she died. He saw his conversion as a natural progression, believing that Christianity and Judaism were “indissolubly linked” and that “the New Testament was hidden within the Old and the Old Testament came to light in the New”, since Christ was the Messiah of Israel.

Lustiger’s prominent role as a Jewish convert was strongly condemned both in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora. This hostility reached its height in 1995 when he was invited to address a conference at the Hebrew University in Tel Aviv on “God’s silence during the Holocaust”. The Chief (Ashkenazi) Rabbi disrupted his visit to Israel by publicly accusing him of “betraying his people and his religion”.

Lustiger, deeply hurt by this attack, replied that it was the first time he had ever heard that it was “worse to be baptised than to commit the crimes of Hitler”.

Aaron Lustiger was born in Paris on September 17 1926, the oldest child and only son of Charles and Giselle Lustiger, who kept a hat shop in Montmartre. His parents, emigrants from Poland, had started selling goods from a street stall before prospering and taking French citizenship. Although the children’s grandfather had been a rabbi, they were given no religious instruction and had a secular upbringing.