Cardinal Lustiger, whose mother died in Auschwitz, was expected to be an official guest at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. At the end of last week the Chief Rabbi, Yisrael Lau, attacked the Cardinal, saying: "The path of spiritual destruction which Lustiger represents, leads, like physical destruction, to the `final solution' of the Jewish problem.''
Dr Yosef Burg, the chairman of the international council at Yad Vashem, said yesterday that at the last minute Cardinal Lustiger discovered he had to deliver a lecture at Tel Aviv University which prevented his attending the ceremony. It appears, however, that the council had already decided not to invite him.
Dr Burg said: "Someone who has converted to Christianity has crossed lines and doesn't belong to the Jewish people, and therefore there is no place for him to participate in an official ceremony."
Although officials at Yad Vashem sought to play down the row over the invitation yesterday, the dispute revives differences over the degree to which commemoration of the Holocaust should include non-Jews. Dr Burg said: "We [Jews] are like a besieged fortress and if someone leaves us you can see how we feel." He dismissed the suggestion that the murder of Cardinal Lustiger's mother by the Nazis made any difference to the case, saying that his own mother was also killed.
Cardinal Lustiger, who converted at the age of 14 during the Second World War, is a possible candidate for the papacy.