October 24, 2010
by Debbie Menon
by Debbie Menon
Catholic bishops in the Middle East urged the United Nations Saturday to end the Israeli occupation of Arab lands at the end of a meeting chaired by Pope Benedict XVI.
In a final statement of their two-week synod, the bishops and patriarchs of the region’s Catholic churches said the citizens of the Middle East “call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations, conscientiously to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council’s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.
“The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders.
“The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution might become a reality and not a dream only.”
The statement referred to Security Council resolutions which called on Israel to quit territories seized during the 1967 Middle East War, including east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The synod was marked by repeated affirmations that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the root of the tension affecting the whole Middle East.
With its resolution, the bishops said, “Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.
“Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms.”
The synod also said, “We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilizations in our region and in the entire world.”
The bishops took aim at claims by hardline Jewish settlers in particular that they had a right to occupy the whole land of Israel promised to God by the Jews according to the Old Testament.
“Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” the synod said.
“On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God’s commandments, namely, according to God’s bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.”
Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States, who headed the commission that drew up the final statement, said, “The theme of the promised land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians.”
“For Christians one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people,” he told a press conference, because the “promise” was “abolished by the presence of Christ.”