Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, Archbishop Emeritus of Paris and one of the key players on the European stage during the second half of the 20th century, died in Paris on Sunday at the age of 80.
Cardinal Lustiger had been in a Paris hospital since April 23. In October of 2006 he told the priests and deacons of Paris he was suffering from “a serious illness.”
Born Aaron Lustiger on September 17, 1926, in Paris to a family of Jewish merchants from Poland, he converted to Catholicism in 1940 at the age of 14, taking the name Jean Marie, two years after his mother was deported in 1942 to Auschwitz, where she died.
After many overcoming many difficulties he was ordained to the priesthood in Paris in 1954.
Lustiger was chaplain for 15 years at the Sorbone, where he himself studied as a youth. In 1969 he was pastor of various parishes in Paris and was named Bishop of Orleans by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
In 1981 he was named Archbishop of Paris and in 1983 he was made a cardinal. Known for his close relationship to John Paul II, Cardinal Lustiger sought to enthusiastically implement the “new evangelization” in an increasingly secular France. Many attribute the current religious reawakening in France in part to the efforts of the late cardinal.
The cardinal accompanied John Paul II on his trip to Israel in 2000, when the Pontiff characterized the Holocaust as a “Golgotha of modern times.”
Especially active in the intellectual world and author of numerious books, Cardinal Lustiger was also elected a member of the prestigious French Academy in June of 1995.
In a brief statement, the Archdiocese of Paris noted that the cardinal played “a notable role in our society and in the intellectual debates of our time.” During his visit to the United States this past week, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said that on Sunday, France lost “a great figure of the religious, moral, intellectual and spiritual life of our country.”
The funeral for the late cardinal will be held Friday morning at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and will be celebrated by his successor, Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois.