One day Rabbi Rene-Samuel Sirat was invited to attend a lecture on the Holocaust, held in the amphitheater of the Sorbonne University in Paris. The speaker, a member of the Academie Francaise, moved the audience when he spoke of a Jewish girl who missed out on a golden opportunity to escape a concentration camp to remain near her parents. Eventually, she was sent to her death along with them.
"Next to me sat [Roman Catholic] Cardinal Lustiger," the former chief rabbi of France recalled. "I glanced at his face and saw tears running down his cheeks. At that moment I knew he was remembering his mother, who suffered a similar fate at the Auschwitz death camp." [Lustiger was born Jewish.]
On more than one occasion, Sirat met the cardinal entering Paris' main synagogue. "He would come to say kaddish for his mother," he said.…
And then, this:
“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 for achieving it.”…
In 1995, while he was visiting Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, the Ashkenazic chief rabbi and a concentration camp survivor, said Cardinal Lustiger had “betrayed his people and his faith during the most difficult and darkest of periods” in the 1940s. The rabbi dismissed the assertion that the cardinal had remained a Jew.
In response, the cardinal said: “To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.”
And, characteristically, this:
He stepped down as archbishop in 2005, but with the pope’s death that year, the cardinal was frequently mentioned as a potential successor.
He countered such speculation with characteristic humor. Asked by a Jewish friend over dinner whether he thought he might become pope, the cardinal responded in French-accented Yiddish, “From your mouth to God’s ear.”