Friday, August 10, 2007
Kaddish for a Cardinal
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger as they arrive at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris August 10, 2007. The funeral ceremony for Lustiger, the former archbishop of Paris, mixed prayers from his Jewish roots with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, a faith to which he converted during World War Two. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (FRANCE)
A sacred Jewish prayer read beneath the sculpted saints of Notre Dame Cathedral opened funeral proceedings Friday for Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, who was born Jewish and converted to Roman Catholicism as a boy.
Lustiger, who lost his mother in the Holocaust and later devoted himself to healing the wounds between Catholics and Jews, had requested that his funeral include both faiths. He died Sunday at age 80 in a Paris hospice.
Hundreds of people, including prominent Jewish leaders of France, Holocaust survivors and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered to see Lustiger's coffin carried through the crowd and placed on the stone square in front of the 12th century Notre Dame.
Lustiger's grandnephew read a psalm in Hebrew and French, and placed a bowl of earth gathered from meaningful Jewish and Christian sites in the Holy Land.
An 83-year-old Nazi death camp survivor and cousin of the cardinal, Arno Lustiger, then led the reading of the Mourner's Kaddish, among a series of prayers central to Jewish worship.
Lustiger's successor Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said Lustiger "wanted the members of his family, Jews and Christians, and his friends to say some traditional prayers for the dead."
The ceremony then moved inside the landmark cathedral, where Vingt-Trois led a funeral Mass.
Hundreds gathered outside despite the drizzly chill to watch the ceremony on huge screens.
One mourner carried a sign reading "Sons and Daughters of the Deported Jews of France." Some 75,000 Jews were deported from France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and fewer than 3,000 survived.
Lustiger's faith remained complex throughout his life — he never rejected his Jewish identity, and the multifaith funeral appeared to be a symbol of that.
"He always claimed he was still a Jew, which caused a certain amount of anxiety and concern within parts of the Jewish community," said Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.
It is "highly unusual" for the Mourner's Kaddish to be read among mourners for a convert from Judaism, said Rabbi Joel Roth, an expert on Jewish law at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.