Vatican Report - 29/10/2010
Vatican Report this week looks at some of the big themes of the synod on the Middle East, and how they were reflected in the final documents.
Cindy Wooden: The synod of Bishops for the Middle East wrapped up its work a few days ago. Today on the Vatican Report we’ll look at some of the big themes of the synod, and how they were reflected in the final documents. I’m Cindy Wooden, CNS Rome correspondent.
John Thavis: and I’m John Thavis, CNS Rome bureau chief. The synod issued a message to the world and it published 44 specific proposals for the pope to review. Some of the strongest language came on the issue of war and peace, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The bishops highlighted the problems faced by Palestinians living in occupied territories, at the same time affirming Israel’s right to live within secure borders. In addressing relations with Jews, the bishops said it was unacceptable to use Scripture to legitimize an injustice.
CW: A U.S. bishop at the synod said that referred to territorial claims by some Israelis that are based on the promises of the Old Testament. The theme of the Promised Land cannot be used to justify the expatriation of Palestinians so the Jews can return to Israel, he said. That was enough to spark a very negative reaction from Israel, which accused the synod of playing politics instead of sticking to pastoral issues.
JT: Relations with Muslims was another big theme of the synod. The final documents made a couple of points: first, that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God, and that the church is committed to dialogue and cooperation with Muslims -- the Church’s many social and educational programs, which are open to people of every faiths, are a prime example. But the bishops said Christians must be given their full rights as citizens, including religious freedom. Pope Benedict was even more forceful on this issue in his homily at the synod’s closing Mass. He said religious liberty for Christian minorities should be put on the agenda of Catholic-Muslim dialogue.
CW: Christian emigration from the Middle East was another key topic in these documents. The bishops examined the causes, which include war, discrimination and economic hardship. While they did not call on emigrants to return home, they did ask them not to rule out an eventual return, and to think twice before selling their property in their homelands. There was also a much greater recognition in this synod that the Church’s make-up is changing in the Middle East: as traditional Catholic populations continue to leave, millions of Catholic immigrants from Asia are arriving in places like the Arabian peninsula.
JT: The synod's proposals go to Pope Benedict, who’s expected to write an apostolic letter on all of this. Meanwhile, the Pope was looking ahead to the next world Synod of Bishops in 2012. He announced that the theme will be “new evangelization,” reflecting what he said was a need to re-evangelize in traditionally Christian countries where people have drifted away from the faith. The Pope recently created a pontifical council to promote new evangelization, and it’s clear that he sees this as one of the most pressing challenges for the Catholic Church today. I’m John Thavis.
CW: And I’m Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.