It’s not easy walking through the minefield called Middle Eastern politics, and a Vatican document released Sunday managed to criticize Israel, Egypt, Islam and even Christian fundamentalists.
The 46-page text, “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness,” will serve as a working document for an October meeting at the Vatican about the Mideast.
The document was made public Sunday, the final day of Pope Benedict’s visit to the island of Cyprus, and reflected the Church’s concern about the flight of Christians from the Holy Land as they leave to look for more opportunities and fewer problems elsewhere.
“The Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories is creating difficulties in everyday life, inhibiting freedom of movement, the economy and religious life,” the document said. “Moreover, certain Christian fundamentalist theologies use Sacred Scripture to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”
Many Evangelical Christians, especially Americans, have thrown their total and unwavering support behind the Jewish state in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“In Egypt, the rise of political Islam, on the one hand, and the disengagement of Christians (forcefully at times) from civil society on the other, lead to severe difficulties,” the document said, adding that there is also an Islamic push taking place in Egypt through the media and through schools.
The Vatican has tried to improve relations with the Muslim world in recent years, with Pope Benedict visiting mosques on trips to both Turkey and Jordan. But Sunday’s document said the dialogue between Christianity and Islam is never easy.
“Oftentimes, relations between Christians and Muslim are difficult,” it said, “because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics, thereby relegating Christians to the precarious position of being considered non-citizens, despite the fact they were citizens of their countries long before the rise of Islam.”