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France's top rabbi Gilles Bernheim quits in plagiarism row

image captionThe former Grand Rabbi is said to have apologised for wrongdoing

France's top rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, has resigned amid a scandal over plagiarism.

Rabbi Bernheim had admitted to plagiarising several authors and lying about an academic status on his CV, reports said.

He has resigned with immediate effect, the body governing France's Jewish congregations announced.

Members of the Central Consistory of France had been meeting in emergency session in Paris.

"He recognised his faults, apologised and gave explanations," Sammy Ghoslan, the consistory's vice-president, told AFP news agency.

His resignation as grand rabbi was "a solution that brings more serenity. We all agreed," he said.

Mr Ghoslan said a caretaker would take up Rabbi Bernheim's post while a permanent successor was chosen to lead France's 500,000-strong Jewish community - the largest in western Europe.

Changing stance

Rabbi Bernheim had been accused of plagiarising other authors for sections of his 2011 book, Forty Jewish Meditations.

And AFP said it had established that a claim on his CV that he had been awarded a prestigious but rarely granted philosophy academic status from Sorbonne University was also not true.

It has also emerged that parts of an essay he wrote arguing against gay marriage - cited by the then Pope Benedict XVI in an address in December - may also have been similar to pre-existing works.

Rabbi Bernheim had initially denied all wrongdoing, and had then asserted that the plagiarism in his book had been carried out by an assistant.

Until Tuesday he had still been insisting that to resign would be a desertion of duty.

Bernheim was rabbi of the largest synagogue in Paris and a leading Jewish intellectual when he became grand rabbi for a seven-year mandate beginning in 2009.

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