The Israeli government and Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee have criticized comments made by Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros during the release of the final message of the Synod on Saturday. The Vatican has not issued an official statement in response to the archbishop’s words, but stressed that “a concise expression of the positions of the Synod” can be found in the final message.
(Rome/e.p.) - The Israeli government and Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee have criticized comments made by Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, the Melkite Greek Catholic bishop of Newton (Massachusetts), during the release of the final message of the Synod on Saturday.
At the press conference at the Vatican to present the synod’s final message, a journalist asked why warnings against using Scripture to justify injustices against the Palestinians were included in a point about increasing cooperation and dialogue with the Jews.
Archbishop Bustros responded by saying 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 added: “We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people - all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.”
Rabbi Rosen, who gave an address to the synod fathers during the first week, said the comments of Archbishop Bustros “reflect either shocking ignorance or insubordination in relation to the Catholic Church's teaching on Jews and Judaism flowing from the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate.” That declaration, he said, “affirms the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish People, which is inextricably bound up with the Land of Israel. We urge the Vatican to issue a clear repudiation of Archbishop Bustros's outrageous and regressive comments.”
In a statement issued Oct. 24, deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said the Israeli government was “especially appalled at the language used by Archbishop Bustros during his press conference.” He added: "We call on the Vatican to distant themselves from Archbishop Boutros' comments which are a libel against the Jewish people and the State of Israel and should not be construed as the Vatican's official position. These outrageous comments should not cast a shadow over the important relationship between the Vatican, the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
During the press conference, the archbishop also firmly criticized the approval by the Israeli cabinet of a new bill requiring citizenship seekers to swear allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". He expressed concerns that such an oath could play into the hands Jewish extremists who will consider Israel as “only a state for Jews and force others to emigrate.” “This is what we reject, what we don’t like,” he said. Other synod fathers also explicitly denounced the move.
In his statement, Ayalon criticized the synod’s general tone. “We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda,” he said. “The synod was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority.”
The Vatican has not issued an official statement in response to the archbishop’s words, but stressed that “ a concise expression of the positions of the Synod” can be found in the final message. It added that individual contributions made by the synod fathers “should not be regarded as the voice of the Synod as a whole.”
Contrary to some media reports, the final message did not include Archbishop Bustros’s remarks as they were given in follow-up questions.
With regards to Israel and the Palestinians, the Message said: “We have evaluated the social situation and the public security in all our countries in the Middle East. We have taken account of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the whole region, especially on the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees. We have reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live. We have meditated on the situation of the holy city of Jerusalem. We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance. With all this in mind, we see that a just and lasting peace is the only salvation for everyone and for the good of the region and its peoples."
The Synod on the Middle East was a “new Pentecost”, a time of “hope, strength and resolution” which the synod fathers aim to bring back to their churches in the region. These were the words from the ‘Nuntius’, or ‘Message to the People of God’ at the conclusion of the Oct. 10-24 meeting.
Pope Benedict XVI has closed the two week Synod of bishops on the Middle East with words of encouragement for the region’s Christians and a strong plea for peace. In his homily to the synod fathers in St. Peter’s basilica Oct. 24, the Pope called on Christians of the Middle East to do “their part in the spirit of the Beatitudes” and be “builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation” for the benefit of society.
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