The Mormon Church on Tuesday apologized that its members had performed posthumous baptisms into Mormonism of the long-dead Jewish parents of famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal.
The baptisms "by proxy" were performed last month in Mormon temples in Utah, Arizona and Idaho, according to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, the human rights organization named after the man who hunted down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals after the Holocaust.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the center told Reuters the baptisms were "unacceptable," adding that people who lost everyone and everything and were murdered for being Jewish during the Holocaust should not have their souls hijacked by another religion.
The Mormon Church permits dead people to be baptised into the religion, with the belief that the dead person "in the next life" can choose to accept or decline the baptism. In these baptisms "by proxy," a current Church member is baptised on behalf of a dead person.
Wiesenthal's mother Rosa died at the Belzec concentration camp in Poland in 1942. His father Asher Wiesenthal was killed fighting for Austria-Hungary during World War I. Simon Wiesenthal died of natural causes in 1995.
In a statement, the Church put responsibility on a single Mormon whom it said had been disciplined.
"We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person's ability to access our genealogy records," Church spokesman Michael Purdy said in the statement.
The apology came on the same day Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called on Republican U.S. presidential candidate and prominent Mormon Mitt Romney to address the issue after Wiesel's own Holocaust victim parents were similarly baptized by the Mormon Church.
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