Biography of Aaron Lustiger
Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Cardinal Lustiger was born Aaron Lustiger in Paris, France to Ashkenazi Jews from Bedzin. Charles and Gisele Lustiger left Poland approximately around World War I. Aaron's father ran a hosiery shop. They were not religious Jews but Jews nevertheless. Aaron studied in France at Lycee Montaigne in Paris, where he first encountered anti-semitism. He visited Germany in 1937 where he was hosted by an anti-Nazi Protestant family whose children had been coerced to join the Hitler Jugend (Youth).
ages of ten and twelve Lustiger was attracted to a Protestant
Bible. In March
of 1940 the thirteen year old Lustiger decided to convert to
Roman Catholicism. In
August of that year he was baptized as Aaron Jean-Marie by the
Bishop of Orleans, 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.
Aaron’s parents had to wear a badge which identified
them as Jews. Lustiger in the meanwhile was hidden in Orleans.
with his father and sister, later sought refuge in unoccupied
southern France, while his mother returned to Paris to run the
family business. In
September of 1942 his mother was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau
concentration camp and died the following year. After the war the surviving family returned to Paris.
Lustiger’s father attempted unsuccessfully to have
Aaron’s baptism annulled.
graduated from the Sorbonne with a degree in literature in
1946. He then
entered the seminary of the Carmelite fathers in Paris, and
later the Institut Catholique de Paris.
From 1954 to 1959 he was the 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.
From 1969 to 1979 he was vicar of
Sainte-Jeanne-de-Chantal in Paris.
This all came, of course, after his ordination to the
priesthood on April 17, 1954.
November 10, 1979, Lustiger was appointed by John Paul II
Bishop of Orleans after a fifteen month vacancy.
He was promoted on January 31, 1981, to bishop of
Paris. He had
been supported by
a letter from Andre Frossard
to John Paul II. 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. Lustiger’s
nomination was seen as a defeat by the French clergy who
supported the Second Vatican Council.
was a first rate communicator who was particularly attentive
to the media and developed Catholic radio and television
also created a new seminary for the training of priests,
bypassing existing arrangements.
He was considered quite an authoritarian, which earned
him the name of “bulldozer”.
like all senior prelates appointed by Pope John Paul II,
upheld papal authority in areas of theology.
He was a strong believer in priestly celibacy and
opposed abortion and the ordination of women. He
considered Christianity to be the accomplishment of Judaism
and the New Testament to be the logical continuation of the
Old Testament. Lustiger did not align himself with the
was an outspoken opponent of racism and anti-Semitism. He was
quoted as stating that “The Christian faith says that all
men are equal in dignity because they are all created in the
image of God”. Lustiger considered himself Jewish all of his
life. He said
that he was proud of his Jewish heritage and described himself
as a “fulfilled” Jew, for which he was mercilessly
chastised by Christian and Jews alike. Although he was accused of betraying the Jewish people by his
conversion to Catholicism, Lustiger’s strong support of
Israel was laudable, especially since it conflicted with the
Vatican’s officially neutral position.
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 of achieving
it.” His life was a series of contradictions, which reminds
one of the old cliché: “Wenn ein dicker Jyd nach Durrgoi geht”.
died on August 5, 2007, at age 80.
He wrote his own epitaph:
WAS BORN JEWISH
RECEIVED THE NAME
MY PATERNAL GRANDFATHER, AARON
FAITH AND BY BAPTISM,
HAVE REMAINED JEWISH
DID THE APOSTLES
HAVE AS MY PATRON SAINTS
THE HIGH PRIEST
JOHN THE APOSTLE
MARY FULL OF GRACE.
139TH ARCHBISHOP OF PARIS
HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
WAS ENTHRONED IN THIS CATHEDRAL
27 FEBRUARY 1981
HERE I EXERCISED MY ENTIRE MINISTERY
PRAY FOR ME.”
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).