NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — He may have died 14 years ago, but that has not kept Cardinal John O’Connor, the late Archbishop of New York, out of the news.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, this ‘Prince’ of the Catholic church was, technically speaking, Jewish.
“He had great love and admiration for his Jewish brothers and I think he would have been pleased,” Mother Agnes Donovan explained.
Mother Donovan was a close associate of the late Cardinal O’Connor and called the news a wonderful surprise.
Research into O’Connor’s family background showed that his mother, born Dorothy Gumple, was Jewish. She converted to Catholicism in 1908.
“Basically Jewish law says if your mother is Jewish you’re Jewish. The law also says once a Jew always a Jew. So, I guess he was Jewish,” Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League, said.
The story was first told in the Archdiocese newspaper, Catholic New York.
Cardinal O’Connor’s sister told the paper that their mother never talked about converting. They assumed she had been Lutheran before becoming Catholic.
“There is indeed a great mystery here. I do not know what inspired my mother to become Catholic, yet I am certain her Jewish roots were mysteriously planted in my brother’s heart,” she said.
Cardinal O’Connor helped broker diplomatic ties between Israel and the Vatican and condemned anti-Semitism as a sin which led some New York Jewish leaders to refer to him as a brother.
“He acted like a brother and he was a brother,” Foxman said.
Sister Maris Stella concurred.
“As we look back and we see how deeply connected he was to the Jewish people we see now that connection was deeper than he ever knew,” she said.
Many New Yorkers welcomed the news.
“I like it. As an Upper West Sider who happens to be Jewish, because it’s so incongruous,” Miriam Gutfeld said.
The discovery of the Cardinal’s Jewish roots came as his sister researched the family’s history and learned that their mother’s parents were buried in a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut.
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