Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

THE JEWISH CARDINAL aka Le métis de Dieu

The film opens in 1969 and we see a young priest precariously careering through heavy traffic   the streets of Paris as he is late for a meeting with his Bishop. Instead of receiving news about his expected move to Jerusalem he is told instead that the Pope has appointed him Bishop of Orleans. Totally unexpected and something that the young Vicar had never expected due to the fact that he was born a Jew.
Jean-Marie Lustiger had been born into a Polish Jewish family who escaped to Orleans when World War 2 broke up. Whilst they remained in Unoccupied France, his mother insisted on going to Paris which led to her deportment to Auschwitz where she lost her life.  In 1940 at the age of 13 instead of having his Bar mitzvah Lustiger chose to get baptised instead and became a catholic.
From seminarian to chaplain to priest and now to Bishop.  The last movie being at the personal behest of the Polish Pop John Paul II who wanted to shake the church’s establishment by making this controversial appointment which immediately got the other Bishop’s wrath when Lustiger insisted he is both a Jew and a Christian.  A statement that was also met with an outcry from the Jewish Community.
The Pope befriended and mentored his new Bishop as he wanted him to reform the France’s Roman Catholic Church which he believed had strayed too far from the direction that the Vatican wanted them to take. Within 15 months Lustiger was elevated again to the top job as Archbishop of Paris making him de facto head of French catholics.     
Meanwhile his elderly father who had never reconciled with his son’s chosen path (initially he had even tried to have the Baptism annulled) died and despite his promises, Lustiger scared of public reactions and media exposure, chose not to honor the promise he had made, and refused to say Kadish at his graveside.
Always outspoken the opinionated Lustiger often crossed swords with the Pope who once berated him with ‘you’re like a Jewish mother to me’, but they had a major falling out when they disagreed how to handle the group of nuns who were determined toe establish a Convent in the grounds of Auschwitz. This scenario which took up most of the final part of the film covered what would end up being Lustiger;s finest career achievements but not before, in one of the most memorable parts of the film, he breaks down and cries praying to his dead parents whilst on the railway tracks leading to the Camp.
This made for French TV movie is completely based on a true story …. and although Lustiger wasn’t the only Jewish Catholic Prelate at the time (the Bishop of Jerusalem ) he was certainly the most famous one. Brilliantly portrayed on screen by Laurent Lucas, he was one of the most conservative priests that the Pope used as a close adviser even though he seemed to barely tolerate him as a Catholic in the same way the Chief Rabbi of France felt about Lustiger being a Jew.
Fascinating story told in a very compelling manner, even though I still neither understand Lustiger’s faith or the reasoning behind his choices.


Available from  Amazon

Posted by queerguru  at  01:26


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