VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed his condolences at the death of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, retired archbishop of Paris, who passed away at age 80.
In a telegram signed by the Pope and sent to the cardinal’s successor, Archbishop André Vingt-Trois, the Holy Father lamented the death of “this great figure of the Church in France.”
Cardinal Lustiger died Aug. 5. Last October he told priests in Paris that he was gravely ill.
Aaron Lustiger was born in 1926 to a Jewish family of Polish origin. At age 14, he asked to be baptized and took the name Jean-Marie.
In 1942, his mother and some other relatives were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died.
Jean-Marie Lustiger was ordained a priest in 1954 and served the next 15 years as chaplain for the students at the Sorbonne.
Benedict XVI recalled those years in his message, saying that the cardinal had maintained his “interest in youth” during his whole ministry.
Pope John Paul II named Father Lustiger the bishop of Orleans in 1979 and archbishop of Paris in 1981.
Benedict XVI’s telegram continued: “In the communities entrusted to him, he contributed to developing the missionary commitment of the faithful, and in particular, dedicated himself to renewing the formation of priests and laity.
“I give thanks to God for his episcopal ministry, holding the memory of a pastor passionate in his search for God and for the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.”
The Pope affirmed that Cardinal Lustiger “generously gave himself to promoting ever more fraternal relations between Christians and Jews.”
“Intellectually farsighted, he knew how to put his talents at the service of the faith so as to make the Gospel present in all areas of the life of society,” the Holy Father said of the cardinal.
Benedict XVI offered his apostolic blessing to all those who participated in the funeral services.