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Cardinal Lustiger: Evangelical Catholic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 10 August 2007 05:32
John Allen has an interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Parish who died a few days ago.

"Conservative revolutionary" and "evangelical Catholic" a la Francais is Allen's take.

Lustiger was born a Jew and converted to Catholicism at 14 during World War II. "Lustiger insisted that his Christianity did not mean he had turned his back on Judaism. "I was born a Jew and so I am," he once said. "For me, the vocation of Israel is to bring light to the goyim. That's my hope, and I believe Christianity is the means for achieving it.""

Lustiger "embraced Christianity's minority status in ultrasecular France, seeing it not as a way station along the path to oblivion but rather as an invitation to beat secular intellectuals at their own game by making an aggressive case for the philosophical truth of Christian doctrines.

This attitude made Cardinal Lustiger an anomaly in French Catholicism. Before him, conservatives were those nostalgic for Christendom, longing to use the coercive power of the state to enforce church precepts. To be modern, meanwhile, was to be leftist. Lustiger's revolution was to proclaim classic Catholic principles in the context of pluralism and religious freedom, being at once modern and traditional."

As a university chaplain at the Sorbonne during the leftist turbulence of 1968, he wrote a memo to then-Cardinal François Marty of Paris arguing for a new strategy. It's time to abandon any pretense to power, he said, and aim instead at evangelization. Lustiger became bishop of Orleans in 1979, and archbishop of Paris in 1981.

In an era in which faith has to be a matter of personal conviction rather than an accident of birth, Lustiger brashly proclaimed, "We're really at the dawn of Christianity." He was utterly at home with laïcité (secularism), yet convinced that, without Christianity, French culture was fated to dissolution.

Lustiger was tough on doctrine and discipline, earning the nickname "the Iron Cardinal." Yet unlike imperial bishops of ages gone by, he was always ready to debate the underpinnings of his positions, winning admiration in a country where intellectuals enjoy pop culture adulation. His Sunday evening Masses at the Notre Dame Cathedral, styled as a form of dialogue with French culture, attracted overflow crowds in an era in which the average rate of Mass attendance hovers at around 5%.

Sherry's note:

Lustiger sounds truly remarkable. I can understand why his Masses had overflow crowds. But I wonder what was his overall impact upon French Catholicism? Was he a phenomenon, a single brilliant, dazzling personality or did his initiatives light a fire in others? Any comments?

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