Richard Prasquier, President of the Jewish French organization, CRIF, from 2007 until 2013, gave an interview to the French Catholic daily, La Croix, published on Friday, August 4, 2017. We published here an excerpt.


Read the full interview here

La Croix: How is the heritage of Cardinal Lustiger irreversible today in the the relations between Jews and Christians?

Richard Prasquier: I would distinguish between two heritages: the one he left in the Jewish world and the one he left in the Jewish-Christian dialogue. With regard to the first, I think that Cardinal Lustiger transformed the very negative image that Jews might have had with regard to someone who abandoned Judaism. In the Middle Ages, many Jewish converts served as accusers in the “disputations” (1) which were followed by persecutions. This suspicion was reinforced when these converts seemed to have a certain sympathy for Jews because it was then suspected that they wanted to pressure them to change their religion.

When Jean-Marie Lustiger became bishop of Orleans and it became known that he was a Jew, a number of Jewish intellectuals expressed their concern. With time, this concern was replaced among many with trust and among some even admiration… sometimes accompanied by regret. Thus, Israel Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, who had had very hard things to say about Jean-Marie Lustiger and who had then been reconciled with him, said to me after his death, “What an extraordinary rabbi he would have been, if he had stayed within the fold of Judaism”.

(…) In other words, should Jean-Marie Lustiger be considered a Jew? This question is complicated and I do not want to venture into the domain of Rabbinic law. If one holds to the strict definition, someone who has abandoned Judaism is no longer Jewish. But if one accepts a broader definition – a Jew is someone who feels Jewish – there is no doubt that he was a Jew and remained one. Today, most Jews consider that he was no longer one but that he had many Jewish characteristics, notably that he had an intimate knowledge, through family transmission, of what it meant to be persecuted, denounced, betrayed as a Jew.

(1) This was the case in Paris in 1240 and in Barcelona in 1263: the theologians of the Inquisition pressured the Jews to debate royal authority in public, a debate that was perceived as a trial of Judaism.