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Mormon church apologizes for proxy baptism of Jews

Ronald Zak/Associated Press files

Simon Wiesenthal’s deceased parents were baptized in a Mormon temple ritual.

SALT LAKE CITY - Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate, after his parents were posthumously baptized in a Mormon temple ritual.

Wiesenthal died in 2005 after surviving the Nazi death camps and spending his life documenting Holocaust crimes and hunting down perpetrators who remained at large.

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Records indicate his parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized in proxy ceremonies performed by Mormon church members in Arizona and Utah in late January.

Mormons believe posthumous baptism by proxy allows deceased persons to receive the Gospel in the afterlife. The church believes departed souls can then accept or reject the baptismal rites and contends the offerings are not intended to offend anyone.

“We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names,’’ said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a statement. “We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person’s ability to access our genealogy records.’’

The name of the individual who submitted the names of the Wiesenthals for baptism was not released. It could not be independently verified whether the church member had been disciplined.

Names used in the rites are submitted to the database by church members. The rites are performed irrespective of connections to any faith tradition.

The Catholic Church has also objected to the baptism of its members, but Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion.

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