Cardinal Albert Decourtray, one of the first members of the Roman Catholic clergy to insist the church face up to its checkered role in World War II, died Friday. He was 71.
Decourtray had been hospitalized since Monday when he was found in a coma in his apartment.Born April 5, 1923, Decourtray was ordained a priest in 1947, a bishop in 1971 and an archbishop in 1981. In 1985 Pope John Paul II named him cardinal.
He was known in France for his advocacy of the disadvantaged and his frequent appearance on television talk shows to speak out on their behalf.
But he is perhaps most remembered for his willingness to expose Roman Catholic links to Nazi collaborators in World War II.
Decourtray opened sealed archives, enabling researchers to corroborate suspected links between elements of the church and French Nazi collaborators.
In particular, the archives shed light on the role played by some Catholic clergy in hiding Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, the former French militia chief convicted of crimes against humanity. Tou-vier was a fugitive until his arrest in 1989.
Decourtray was also 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.
In 1991, Decourtray received the Humanitarian Action Prize of the Jewish association B'nai B'rith.
Last year, Decourtray was elected to the Academie Francaise, the elite literary panel that acts as a guardian of the French language.