Skip to comments.Multifaith farewell for French cardinal
Posted on 08/09/2007 1:56:41 PM PDT by NYer
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a convert from Judaism who sought to bring the faiths closer during his extraordinary life, is carrying on the mission in death with a funeral rich in symbolism that includes a Jewish prayer read by a Nazi death camp survivor.
Jews and Roman Catholic plan to join in front of the sculpted saints of the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday to hear the Jewish prayer, known as the Mourner's Kaddish, before the funeral Mass for the former archbishop of Paris.
"This was his wish, to share the remembrance this way," said Arno Lustiger, a cousin and 83-year-old Auschwitz survivor, who plans to read the prayer.
The late cardinal, whose mother died at Auschwitz, converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager and rose to become a confidant of the late Pope John Paul II and was sometimes even touted as a possible papal successor. Lustiger died Sunday at age 80 in a Paris hospice.
The Mourner's Kaddish is among a series of prayers central to Jewish worship. The prayer praises God and the virtues of faith, but does not specifically mention funeral or burial traditions.
It is "highly unusual" 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.
"It's important to emphasize that it's not possible to be both Jewish and Catholic," he said. "That is what this could suggest to some people."
But Lustiger dedicated much of his life to trying to bridge the faiths and once called Christianity "the fruit of Judaism."
On Friday, a grandnephew, Gila, plans to read a psalm. Another relative, Jonas-Moses Lustiger, is bringing earth from Christian holy sites in and around Jerusalem to be sprinkled on the coffin.
Shortly after the Kaddish, Lustiger's successor as archbishop of Paris, Andre Vingt-Trois, will lead a funeral Mass inside the 12th century cathedral, one of the most famous symbols of French Catholicism.
Among those in attendance will be France's leading Jewish and Catholic figures, as well as President Nicolas Sarkozy, who interrupted a U.S. vacation. Sarkozy later plans to fly back to Maine for lunch the next day with President Bush.
Many of those attending the Mass are expected to also attend the Kaddish reading, the Paris archdiocese said.
"It's a beautiful symbol," Rosita Ferrer, a Parisian waiting to pay her respects at Notre Dame on Thursday. "He did so much for the reconciliation of religions. ... He is leaving us a beautiful gift for years to come."
Aaron Lustiger was born in 1926 in Paris to Polish immigrant parents who ran a hosiery shop. As an adolescent, he was sent to the town of Orleans, 80 miles south of the capital, to take refuge from the occupying Nazis. There, Lustiger converted to Catholicism at the age of 14, taking the name Jean-Marie.
He was ordained a priest in 1954, and served as chaplain to students at the Sorbonne University, reportedly zipping on a motorbike through the winding streets of the Left Bank student neighborhood.
Lustiger climbed up the church hierarchy before becoming archbishop of Paris, a post he held for 24 years before stepping down in 2005.
Lustiger remained a populist figure, creating a Christian radio station, Radio Notre Dame, in 1981 and expounding on issues from the August 2003 heat wave that killed thousands of people in France to the building of a united Europe.
He also respected his Jewish heritage.
"For me, it was never for an instant a question of denying my Jewish identity. On the contrary," he said in "Le Choix de Dieu" (The Choice of God) published in 1987.
Lustiger's funeral comes as the Vatican sought to calm Jewish anger over Pope Benedict XVI's meeting with a prominent Polish priest accused of anti-Semitism, declaring the encounter did not imply any change in the Church's desire for good relations with Jews.
Will post pictures tomorrow.
Right next to Notre Dame is the Memorial de la Deportation - a multilevel monument to the French Jews who were deported to the concentration camps.
Mourners frequently say Kaddish there.
It will hardly be the first or last time this beautiful prayer is said there.
I will also point out that the Kaddish is in a dialect of Aramaic known as the Targumic - the dialect in which the Hebrew readings of the synagogue were translated for the people in Jesus' time.
Not quite. The Targum was written by Onkelos, a Roman convert to Judaism approximately 100 years after Jesus. So the language is probably similar to that of the Aramaic of Jesus' time, but slightly different (in much the way that English is different today than 100 years ago).
I've been reading about the funeral. I'm curious which version of the Kaddish is going to be said. The usual Mourner's Kaddish has nothing that is offensive to Christianity. But there is a special Kaddish said only at burial that contains extra lines calling for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, which obviously conflicts with Catholic theology. It would be odd for it to be said in a Church at a Catholic burial for a cardinal. For that matter, it's darn odd that Jews are saying it in a Church. . . because Jewish law forbids Jews from praying in most churches (and certainly Catholic ones) due to the icons and images.
There is more than one Targum. The Targum Yonatan was written in the Aramaic of Judaea, while Onkelos was written in an Aramaic more familiar to the readers of the Talmud Bavli.
The Kaddish itself is Aggadic.
But there is a special Kaddish said only at burial that contains extra lines calling for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, which obviously conflicts with Catholic theology.
Catholics believe that Jesus as the returned Messiah will build a New Jerusalem and that, according to Revelation, "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple."
So, were a Christian for some reason to pray the Kaddish, he could pray for the rebuilding the Temple as a metaphoric reference to this prophecy of Revelation.
It would be odd for it to be said in a Church at a Catholic burial for a cardinal. For that matter, it's darn odd that Jews are saying it in a Church. . . because Jewish law forbids Jews from praying in most churches (and certainly Catholic ones) due to the icons and images.
The article implies that the Kaddish will be recited in front of the facade of Notre Dame, outside of the church.