A Catholic synod called at the Vatican to address the rising persecution of Christian in the Middle East wrapped up on Saturday with a joint statement that focused a lot of attention on demanding Israel end its “occupation” of Arab lands.
The gathering was meant to address the various acts of persecution, intimidation and discrimination that are resulting in a severe dwindling of Christian communities across the region.
But the bulk of the two-week meeting was spent discussing how Israel is the root cause of all the Middle East’s woes, including those faced by its Christians.
The final statement reflected that position. It listed the “occupation” of Arab lands, the building of Israel’s security barrier, military checkpoints, the jailing of terrorists (defined in the statement as “political prisoners”) and the general disruption of Palestinian life as some of the main reasons behind the exodus of Palestinian Christians and Muslim attacks on the Jewish state.
Cyril Salim Bustros, the Lebanon-born Greek archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts was responsible for delivering the final statement.
In clarifying remarks, he stated that “the Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands.”
He then escalated the situation by declaring that the original promises made by God to the children of Israel “were nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people.”
Bustros rejected the idea of Israel as “the Jewish state,” and insisted that eventually all the so-called “Palestinian refugees” must return to the land, a sure recipe for the demographic destruction of the world’s only Jewish nation-state.
Mordechai Levi, Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, decried Bustros’ comments and the damage they had done to strengthening ties between Israel and the Church.
A Vatican spokesman later stated that the Church's official position is the synod's declaration, and not Mr. Bustros' explanatory remarks. However, he did not outright reject what Mr. Bustros said, even though it would appear to contradict more recent Vatican declarations that God's promises to the Jews remain intact.
It should be noted that the synod declaration, in its section addressed to the Jews, insisted that "recourse to...biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable."
The only thing Israel and its supporters use the Bible to justify in this case is the Jews' right to the land, including Judea and Samaria. If the Vatican is now saying that the Bible and the divine promises therein no longer give the Jews claim to the land, as Mr. Bustros tried to clarify, then for many the Vatican's commitment to its earlier declaration regarding the Jews and God's promises to them remains at least partially in question.