The Vatican moved on Monday to soothe Israeli anger over critical remarks made by Middle East Catholic bishops, saying individual comments should not be taken as the view of the Church.”If one wishes for a synthesized expression of the positions of the Middle Eastern synod, one must take it from the message,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a written note, referring to the official statement released after the synod last Saturday.
Israel reacted angrily after the statement by bishops and patriarchs fromacross the Middle East calling on the international community to end the occupation of Arab lands, saying the two-week synod at the Vatican had been “hijacked by an anti-Israeli majority.”
Israel took particular offence to remarks made by Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, the head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States who led the commission which drew up the statement.
In a remark that went further than the official statement, Bustros said: “The theme of the Promised Land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians.”
Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, described the remark as “a libel against Israel” and called on the Vatican to distance itself from the position.
Speaking in a conference in Berlin, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said the Vatican “doesn’t have to teach us about interpreting the Bible as we don’t teach them how to interpret the New Testament.”