A Vatican conference denies the legitimacy of Israel
, from rt.com, a site about which I know nothing, is so poorly written, and so unbelievable on its face, that one can’t be sure how much of it is true. It reports that a Catholic Archbishop of the Greek-Melchite church, Cyrille Bustros, who was leading a Vatican conference at which Pope Benedict was in attendance, said:
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…. 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.
The reason I doubt the story is that no Vatican official could be so ignorant and stupid as to suggest that Israel was founded on the basis of the Jews’ status as God’s “chosen people.” The State of Israel is not a religious state and was not founded as one. The Zionist movement did not claim the land of Israel on the basis of God’s biblical promises to the Jews, but on the basis of the Jewish people’s thousands-year-old historical connections with that land.
Second, it’s hard to believe that a high ranking Vatican official would portray Israel as though Jews were only at this moment returning to Israel and setting up a state there, and therefore that the legitimacy of the Jewish State were open to question. The State of Israel has been in existence for 62 years. Israel is an actually existing country. The Archbishop’s statement implies that it is not one.
However, the one part of the report that is, sadly, believable, is that which concerns the Archibishop’s denial of God’s dispensation to the Jews. Historically, the Church held that the Christian dispensation entirely replaced the Jewish dispensation, thus denying the Jews as Jews any role in the world, though, as I understand it, that belief was modified or dropped by Vatican II and the document Nostra Aetate with its statement of tolerance of the Jews. It remains the case, however, that many traditional Catholics still deny the Jewish dispensation. For them, the Jews as Jews have no place in God’s plan—a belief that puts such Catholics in line with the Muslim view of the Jews. By contrast, for most Protestants, and especially Protestant dispensationalists, the Jewish people, the first recipients of God’s revelation, still have a role in unfolding divine history.
Here is the article:
Vatican rejects “chosen people” claim, calls on Israel to end “occupation”
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Published 25 October, 2010, 16:31; edited 30 October, 2010, 18:49
A high-ranking Israeli official on Sunday slammed a statement from Catholic bishops, who called for international organizations to lead the cause of Palestinian statehood.
Greek-Melchite Archbishop Cyrille Bustros sparked an interreligious firestorm when he suggested that Israel was “using Scripture” to continue its occupation of Palestinian territory.
“The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians,” Bustros said at the close of a two-week conference in Rome, Italy, “to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands.”
The Archbishop then questioned the biblical idea of a “promised land” set aside by a specific group of people.
“We Christians cannot speak of the promised land as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people,” Bustros continued. “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.”
Bustros led the group that drafted the synod’s concluding statement on Israel and the Palestinians.
The controversial comments came at the conclusion of a two-week Vatican conference assembled to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
Pope Benedict XVI was in attendance at the synod and celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Cathedral on Sunday with the bishops.
On Sunday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon criticized the concluding statement of the conference, saying the forum has been “hijacked by an anti-Israeli majority.”
“We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda,” Ayalon said in a statement. “The synod was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority.”
Ayalon then called on the Vatican to distance itself from the comments, which the Israeli official said amounted to “libel.”
“We call on the Vatican to distance themselves from Archbishop Bustros’ 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,” the foreign minister said in his statement. “These outrageous comments should not cast a shadow over the important relationship between the Vatican, the state of Israel and the Jewish people.”
The Palestinian Authority, however, praised Bustros’ comments.
“Israel cannot use the biblical concept of a promised land or chosen people to justify new settlements in Jerusalem or Israeli territorial claims,” Saeb Erakat, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement released Sunday.
Erakat said the synod sent “a clear a message to the government of Israel that it may not claim that Jerusalem is an exclusively Israeli city.”
“The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security,” the statement continued optimistically. “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,” it said. “We hope that the two-state-solution might become a reality and not a dream only.”
Pope Benedict XVI first called for a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis during a visit to the region in May 2009 when he voiced the Vatican’s support of a sovereign Palestinian homeland. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was opposed to a two-state solution.
The Vatican, however, eager to boost its sagging popularity worldwide, noted during the synod that only 2.1 per cent of those living in Israel are Christian, who continue to be outnumbered by high Jewish and Muslim birthrates.
The Catholic Church also mentioned conflict, religious discrimination and economic woes as the cause of its shrinking influence in the Middle East.
No sign of apology
The Vatican in January blamed Israel not only for the exodus of Christians from Palestinian-controlled territories, but for the plight of Christians across the entire Middle East.
The statement, which served as the basis for the latest Vatican synod, was also authored by Arab bishops from the Middle East, who argued that Israel’s “occupation” of Arab-claimed lands is the root cause of most of the oppression suffered by Christians in the region.
They suggested that in the absence of an “occupation,” radical Islamic forces across the Middle East would lose their support base, and stop causing problems for Christians.
The Vatican said they were not trying to take sides in the issue, but that the Arab bishops “know the situation well.”
This is not the first time of late that religious tensions have boiled over between the adherents of Judaism and Christianity.
Earlier this year, the Catholic Church became suddenly embroiled in a string of pedophile cases, some of them dating back many years. Some inside of the Catholic Church saw a “Jewish conspiracy” behind the reports.
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Meridiaga, the archbishop of Honduras, said there was something curious about the media’s timing of the revelations, coming as they did as the conflict in the Middle East was heating up.
“It certainly makes me think that in a moment in which all the attention of the mass media was focused on the Middle East, all the many injustices done against the Palestinian people, the print media and the TV in the United States became obsessed with sexual scandals that happened 40 years ago, 30 years ago … “
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, criticized what it said was a “clear and despicable intention” by the media to strike at Benedict “at any cost.”
American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a well known defender of Israeli interests, called the Cardinal’s assertions a “cockamamie theory” and “blood libels,” while arguing that much of the criticism (concerning the pedophile cases) “comes from disappointed Catholics.”
Strange how two religions that emerged from the same seed are so committed to dragging each other down at every opportunity.
[end of article]
Lydia McGrew writes:
I absolutely believe that Archbishop Bustros did make the remarks attributed to him. The story has been reported repeatedly (here and here for example) and is completely consistent with the virulently anti-Israel attitude among Middle Eastern Catholics. Israel has condemned the statement, and there has been no denial that it took place. The contradiction with Nostra Aetate is clear, but that does not surprise me, either. Hugh Fitzgerald at Jihad Watch calls this sort of Christian an “Islamo-Christian,” which seems appropriate. There’s a kind of Stockholm Syndrome that leads Middle Eastern Christian leaders to join with their Muslim oppressors in blaming and reviling Israel.
Kilroy M. writes:
RT, or “Russia Times” is an English language Russian “news” channel, whose purpose is to deliver the Moscow line and thus influence Western public opinion. This became abundantly clear during Russia’s invasion of Georgia and the channel’s interviewing of old-school pro-Soviet Central European apparatchiks. Since the Putin regime is funding the construction of Orthodox churches throughout Russia and using the religion as an auxiliary vehicle for social control, it is somewhat unsurprising that their line on Catholicism would be unfaltering. I don’t know whether such a conference took place, and if so, what was said, how and in which context. But I do know that there are some media sources that I just do not pay much attention to due to their overall lack of credibility. If there is something to the story, it will undoubtedly be covered by other media.
Laura Wood writes:
Historically, the Church held that the Christian dispensation entirely replaced the Jewish dispensation, thus denying the Jews as Jews any role in the world, though, as I understand it, that belief was modified or dropped by Vatican II and the document Nostra Aetate with its statement of tolerance of the Jews. It remains the case, however, that many traditional Catholics still deny the Jewish dispensation. For them, the Jews as Jews have no place in God’s plan—a belief that puts such Catholics in line with the Muslim view of the Jews.
This is poorly worded. The Catholic view concerned the Jews’ potential for salvation. Historically, it was not the Church’s position that Jews or those of any other faith had no “role in the world” nor was Catholic doctrine comparable to the Muslim view that Jews are less than human. Nostra Aetate was not the first Church document to express “tolerance of the Jews.” Paul expressed the idea that Jews had full dignity before God. Given that half of the Catholic Holy Book is of Jewish origin, the Church historically honored the Jews.
My understanding is that the traditional Catholic view is that God’s revelation and dispensation to the people of Israel was entirely replaced by the Christian revelation and dispensation. This meant that the Jewish people, as the Jewish people, no longer had any role to play in history, and no legimate place in the world. The only thing for the Jews to do was to convert to Christianity and disappear as Jews. This belief played a major part in the Catholic anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages.
“By contrast, for most Protestants, and especially Protestant dispensationalists, the Jewish people, the first recipients of God’s revelation, still have a role in unfolding divine history.”
Not entirely sure what you mean by “God’s revelation,” but in fact the Adamic covenant and the Noahide covenant preceded the Mosaic covenant by quite a bit of history. The Torah bears witness to these two preceding divine interventions in mankind’s history. The Five Books of Moses (the Pentateuch) are witness to God’s revelation to Adam and to Noah. This is not an argument against Jews having “a role in unfolding divine history,” just against the notion that Jews were “the first recipients of God’s revelation.”
God gave ethical commands to Noah that were valid for all mankind, but that was not what we ordinarily think of as God’s revelation of himself to mankind. That revelation began with Abraham, and then with Moses.
After all, what is the Old Testament (i.e., the Old Covenant)? It is not the Noahide covenant. It is the covenant made with Israel.
Daniel F. writes:
I saw you had a post about the unfortunate statement about Israel at the recent Vatican synod. This piece from First Things may be a more reliable critical analysis of that statement.
Incidentally, from what I read on the Web, it seems that there’s a very high likelihood that the PA is unilaterally going to declare statehood within undefined borders in mid-2011. The PA expects active support from the UN and, most probably, passive acquiesence from the Obama administration. This is the bitter fruit of American Jews’ obsessive support for the Democratic Party.
Daniel S. writes:
According to one attendee of the conference, criticism of the oppressive policies of Muslim governments toward Middle Eastern Christians was muted because of fear of retaliation (not an unjustified fear). Attacking Israel carries no political risk and may win a few points with the notoriously anti-Semitic Arab regimes. Of course, in the end the hatred that Muslims harbor toward Christians has nothing to do with Israel, but is rooted in the Koran itself and goes back 1,400 years (long before modern Israel was founded). Furthermore, even with the dhimmi groveling, the Iraqi Christians were not spared a barbaric assault on one of their churches in Baghdad yesterday which left almost 60 people dead, nor has it slowed down the vicious cultural genocide of the Coptic Christians in Egypt. There is absolutely no appeasing Islam.
A reader writes:
I’m a very long-time reader, several years now, and I love your website.
I had to write regarding the question of the Church and Jews, although due to a shortage of time this evening, this will be a very brief email. I have a particular interest in this subject as a Catholic with traditionalist tendencies and a Jewish Christian husband.
I should say at the outset that I think the Archbishop Bustros’s comments are very wrong, and I agree with Lydia McGrew that a lot of Middle Eastern Christians have Stockholm Syndrome.
However, I am guessing from your use of the term ‘dispensation’ that your opinions on the Catholic view of Jews are largely informed by dispensationalist theology. I would recommend that you read this article , which points out that dispensationalists have tended to paint all types of non-dispensationalism as ‘replacement theology’, which is not accurate:
“The two extremes of replacement theology and dispensationalism within Protestantism (and there are middle, moderate positions) sometimes cause problems for Catholics. Dispensationalists often regard everybody but themselves as advocates of replacement theology and, consequently, as ‘spiritualizers’ of God’s promises to the Jews who do not take these promises—or God’s word in general—seriously. Since Catholics are not dispensationalists, they frequently assume that we hold the views of replacement theologians.
“That is not the case. The Church regards both Jews and Christians as complementary and overlapping peoples of God. We are both elect. Those Jewish individuals who are also Christians might be regarded as doubly elect, or elect on two grounds. While the Church is the New Israel, this does not obliterate the identity of the Old Israel, nor deprive it from playing any role in God’s plan of the ages. In particular, it does not remove the prophesied conversion of the Jewish people in the last days.”
I have a lot more to say about this subject (if you are interested) but perhaps this would provide a good starting point.
Laura Wood replies to LA:
Yes, the Church historically believed that God’s covenant with the Jews ended with the Incarnation. That is not the same thing as having no “tolerance for the Jews.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 01, 2010 08:44 AM | Send
And if the Church believed otherwise? Wouldn’t that represent the negation of its creed? How could the Church hold to Christ’s role in history and yet also believe it didn’t matter whether Jews converted? That would be tantamount to believing the Jews, unlike all others, were unworthy of salvation.
In any event, the comparison with Islam’s view of the Jews is inappropriate, as Church doctrine never advocated the political conquest or submission of Jews or exhorted Christians to work for the physical non-existence of Jews.