A heartwarming revelation has recently rocked both the Jewish and Christian communities. Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, who had been the archbishop of the New York archdiocese and a strong Vatican ambassador in the U.S., was the son of a Jewish woman and therefore Jewish himself.
O'Connor's sister, Mary O’Connor Ward-Donegan, was researching her family's genealogical roots when she came to the revelation that her mother had been born Jewish and converted to Catholicism in 1908. Moreover, the Cardinal's grandfather, as it was discovered, had been a rabbi.
“The basic fact is, my mother was Jewish,” Ward-Donegan told the New York Times. “That means my two brothers were Jewish, my sister was Jewish and I am Jewish. Of that I am very proud.”
O'Connor himself died in 2000 and likely never knew his Jewish roots. Ironically, he was known throughout his life for being a staunch defender of the Jewish people. He had been in Dachau and witnessed the aftermath of the atrocities of the Holocaust firsthand as a Navy chaplain. He publicly supported Soviet Jewry, and played a role in the Vatican’s recognition of the state of Israel. New York City's former Jewish mayor, Edward I. Koch, had said he loved him “like a brother.”