September 13, 1994

The Associated Press

LYON, France (AP) -- Cardinal Albert Decourtray, the archbishop of Lyon, was hospitalized in a deep coma Tuesday after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

The cardinal, widely respected for his advocacy of the disadvantaged and his willingness to expose Roman Catholic links to Nazi collaborators, was in a state of "artificial survival," according to a medical communique which ruled out surgery.

Decourtray, 71, was found virtually lifeless in his private apartment Monday after aides forced open the door when he did not respond to their knocks. The cardinal was rushed to Lyon's neurological hospital and placed on a life support system.

Decourtray was ordained a priest in 1947, became archbishop in 1981 and was named a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II.

He is well-known in France for his statements on social issues and his frequent appearance on television talk shows, speaking out on behalf of low-income youths, prison inmates and immigrants.

He gained special notice for insisting that France's Roman Catholic Church should face up to its checkered role during World War II.

He opened sealed archives to researchers to corroborate suspected links between elements of the [Roman Catholic] Church and French Nazi collaborators, including the role played by some Catholic clergy in hiding fugitive war-crimes suspect Paul Touvier before his 1989 arrest.

In 1991, Decourtray received the Humanitarian Action Prize of the Jewish association B'nai B'rith for his support of interfaith activities. He had been one of the key Catholic leaders pressing for the transfer of Carmelite nuns whose presence at a convent beside the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was offensive to many Jews.

Last year, Decourtray was elected to the Academie Francaise, the elite literary panel which acts as a guardian of the French language.