UPDATE: I owe the Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros an apology: when I wrote about his remarks at the recent Vatican Synod, I was relying on incomplete and inaccurate press reports, and did not fully understand his position. He explains his position here.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Cyril Bustros and the bishops who supported his position at the Synod were behaving like classic dhimmis: adopting the perspective and agenda of the dominant Muslim majority (including antisemitism), remaining silent about Islamic supremacist persecution of their communities, and hoping thereby to curry favor with the dominant group and ease the sting of that persecution. It’s an understandable impulse, but when they have to outrage the truth, deny reality and the teachings of their own church, and acquiesce to injustice and evil instead of standing against it, they’re doing more harm than good, and ultimately aren’t protecting their communities from anything.
Bishops from this region have distorted both church teachings and the facts to sully Israel, while the Vatican has remained silent.
In the name of radical Islamic-inspired nationalism, Mideast Christians of all denominations, including Catholics, have faced devastating persecution for their religious convictions. From the Gaza Strip and Egypt to Iraq to Turkey, Christians have been murdered, had their churches burned to the ground and their holy books destroyed, and have been demoted to secondclass citizens exposed to libels and exploitation by Muslim neighbors.
Ostensibly with the purpose of addressing these injustices and stemming the tide of a dwindling Christian population in the Mideast, Pope Benedict XVI convened a special Vatican Synod in Rome, composed of about 200 bishops mostly from Muslim countries. Yet these bishops hijacked the synod and issued a statement Saturday that all but ignored the plight of Catholics living in Muslim lands while singling out Israel’s “occupation” for special castigation.
One of the synod’s leaders, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, even reiterated anti-Semitic theological positions that contradicted official Catholic positions as stated in Nostra Aetate, a groundbreaking interfaith document drafted in October 1965 during the Second Vatican Council that radically revamped the Church’s previous negative views of the Jewish people.
Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, has now called on the Vatican to issue a clear repudiation of Bustros’s “outrageous and regressive comments.” We firmly join him in that call.
So do I.
IT IS an undeniable fact that the bulk of Christian persecution in the Mideast is perpetrated in the name of radical Islam.…
However, of the top 10 countries on the list, eight are Islamic and three – Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – are in the Middle East. Egypt and Iraq are also listed in the top 20. The “Palestinian Territories” is ranked 47, cited primarily as a conflict zone and also in part due to the strife suffered by all Gazans, Christians included, as a result of the destruction caused by Operation Cast Lead.
Open Doors takes pains to note, however, that even before the offensive, which was directed at Hamas terrorists, not Christians, “Many [Christian] believers had already left, pressured by the growing influence of radical Islam…”
SO, IF radical Islam is the principal persecutor of Christians in the Mideast, why was Israel singled out? Apparently, by bashing Israel, Arab Catholic bishops as a persecuted minority in the Mideast are attempting to go out of their way to prove their loyalty to their Muslim brethren.…
Bishops from this region have distorted both church teachings and the facts to sully Israel, while the Vatican has remained silent, in the process turning a blind eye to Christian suffering.
Pope Benedict XVI still has a chance to distance himself from the synod’s declarations and make it clear that Bustros’s comments deviate from Church teaching. That is the right and necessary thing for the pope to do – not just for Jewish-Catholic relations, but also for the sake of the Middle East’s persecuted Christian minority.
As a Melkite Greek Catholic myself, I do hope the pope does this.