Holocaust survivors are trying to negotiate with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints to stop posthumous “proxy” baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps. In these ceremonies, a person stands in for a victim and goes through the submerging rite.
Thirteen years ago, the Mormons agreed to stop the baptisms of Holocaust survivors, but their names were found in a massive genealogical database by people monitoring the process under a prior agreement.
Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that they want more action, demanding that the church also “implement a mechanism to undo what you have done.” He added that “Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable.”
The 1995 agreement limited the use of proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims but did not end the process which is deeply engrained in the Mormon faith. Mormon have long baptized non-Mormons in proxy ceremonies.
I must confess that I am not sure why it matters what another religion purports or believes about your conversion. Michel explained that he wants the process “reversed” because “They tell me, that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered but … 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?” That seems a bit of a stretch.
Since 2005, ongoing monitoring of the database has revealed resubmissions and new entries of names of Dutch, Greek, Polish and Italian Jews. The church says that lists of names have been entered into the database by people acting “outside of policy” and that they have removed 42,000 names from the database on their own.
The Vatican has also objected to the proxy baptism of Catholics, telling Catholic dioceses worldwide to withhold member registries from Mormons so that Catholics could not be baptized.
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