French Catholic Church to apologize for Vichy ties

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PARIS — France's Roman Catholic Church is planning to apologize next month to the Jewish community for its collaboration with the country's wartime pro-Nazi Vichy regime.

The French church's decision to seek forgiveness from France's 700,000-strong Jewish community conforms with Pope John Paul II's 1994 call on all Catholic churches to acknowledge the evils of anti-Semitism and to engage in reconciliation with world Jewry.

Jean-Marie Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris, announced at a news conference that reconciliation ceremonies would be held during the pope's visit to Paris Aug. 21-24.

Lustiger was born Jewish but converted to Catholicism as a teenager during the war. His mother, one of some 75,000 Jews deported from France, perished at Auschwitz.

There has been reluctance in France to acknowledge the church's support for Vichy leader Marshall Philippe Petain, who signed the anti-Semitic law in October 1940 that banned Jews from most professions.

Petain later authorized the arrests and deportations of French Jews that were carried out mainly by French police, who turned the Jewish deportees over to the Nazis.

Henri Hajdenberg, president of CRIF, the umbrella group of secular French Jewish organizations, applauded the French church's decision.