A Cardinal Whose Mother Died at Auschwitz
Interview With Archbishop Lustiger of Paris
PARIS, FEB. 3, 2005 (Zenit) - On Jan. 21, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger responded to journalists' questions, on the eve of his departure to attend the ceremonies to commemorate the Jan. 27, 1945, liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.
Q: Eminence, what are your feelings on the eve of your trip?
Cardinal Lustiger: I will express my personal feelings in very simple terms. I went once in my life to Auschwitz, and I never wanted to return there again, because it is a place of death and destruction.
I have no spiritual or human desire to go there. My mother died there, as did 30 or 40 persons, I don't know exactly, of my paternal family.
I am going there because the Pope has asked me, to carry out the mission he has given me. I am not going for personal reasons. I am not a former deportee. I should have and could have been deported. I was a contemporary of that deportation.
That is something concrete, emotional, which I bear, but that doesn't matter much. What matters is that one not be mistaken about the importance of this affair. Over there, I would prefer to be silent about everything else.
Q: What is the state of relations today between Jews and Christians?
Cardinal Lustiger: It has been a long history of reconciliation, since "Nostra Aetate," the conciliar document whose 40th anniversary will be celebrated in October in Rome.
It is a document voted on by the Second Vatican Council on which the present Pope, John Paul II, then archbishop of Krakow, worked on in a precise and particular way, as he did on other important texts of the Council.
He formulated in a new way the relationship of the Jewish people and the Church, of the Church and the Jewish people, marking out the conditions of the dialogue to come.
He did not make a "tabula rasa" [clean slate] of the past, but assumed that past and opened the doors to the future. Karol Wojtyla did not cease to work on the development of relations, and on all the necessary gestures for the purification of the memory, clearly attesting to sincerity.
I add a point that in my opinion is very important. He did not do so in an opportunistic manner. The reconciliation between Christians and Jews goes much deeper than that, into another dimension, because it touches the essence of the Christian faith in its roots.
The issue, in fact, is the very authenticity of the Christian faith. It is what is expressed in a powerful way, not only in an elliptical way as in the Council's text, but by all of John Paul II's teaching over 30 years.
Today, thanks to that, and to the progress made by the Jewish communities, extraordinary prejudices have fallen -- as if, with confidence re-established, there is trust between one another, and the awareness that it is the search for truth that governs us.
Each of us can remain what we are and discover what we have in common, this being no more than the concept of man, anthropology. The constant reference in the Catholic Church is Genesis, which is part of Christian Revelation about man and woman, and the destination of goods.
Jesus himself referred to Genesis' account of the creation of man. It is not a Jewish word taken by Christians or a Christian word heard by Jews as if it were theirs, but it is about the "same" Word. Something, therefore, has changed in the present situation.
A priori confidence has replaced mistrust and rejection -- but also the capacity to say what one thinks without fear of offending or wounding; of discussions between peoples who respect one another; and the awareness that it is about common, ethical, spiritual and religious issues, of which Jews and Christians -- Catholics -- are bearers, not only for themselves as a confessional truth but as a service rendered to the whole of humanity.
To say what one has to say, to witness to that which one must witness to, and to be able to do so together, is the task we have before us.
Q: Has there been too much haste in the reconciliation between Germany and the Jewish community?
Cardinal Lustiger: We see how this normalization is in the process of being implemented -- the chancellor's visit to Israel, etc. A reconciliation that is given, desired on both sides. Why try to limit it?
Q: And the usefulness of trips to Auschwitz?
Cardinal Lustiger: It would be better, given revisionism, to go see what humanity was capable of doing. Father Decourtray, who was a sensitive man, of good faith, intelligent, and cultured, absolutely did not imagine what it entailed. He had an interior shock, and experienced an extraordinary spiritual journey, through the filter of this affair.
Auschwitz is not simply a "museum of horrors," like at ...
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