Elie Wiesel Criticizes Romney for Keeping Mum on Mormon Posthumous Baptism of Jews

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate says does not see U.S. presidential hopeful as complicit in the Mormon custom, adding, however, that the issue was serious enough to be addressed.

Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney should have spoken up against Mormon posthumous baptism of Jews, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Eli Wiesel said in an interview on Wednesday.

Wiesel's comments came after Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized, a controversial ritual that Mormons believe allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but offends members of many other religions.

Elie Wiesel at the White House

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. Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion, and the baptism of Holocaust survivors was supposed to have been barred by a 1995 agreement.

Speaking to MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell's on Wednesday, Wiesel mentioned the name of Republican presidential hopeful and Mormon Mitt Romney in relation to the affair, saying the former governor should have communicated his position on the matter.

"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and I respect all religions, including the Mormon religion," Wiesel said, asking: "How come he hasn't spoken up after all?"

"It's not, I'm sure he's not involved in that. But nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up, because he is running for the presidency of the United States, which means it's too serious of an issue for him not to speak up," he added.

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Following news of the posthumous baptism of Wiesenthal's parents, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the baptismal rites.

"We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center.

The church immediately apologized, saying it was the action of an individual member of church — whom they did not name — that led to the submission of Wiesenthal's name.

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

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.