Israel cannot claim Palestinian territory as its promised land citing the Bible to justify its occupation and the expulsion of Palestinians, a Catholic archbishop said.
Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States, made his comments after the Middle East synod of Catholic bishops called on the United Nations to implement its resolutions and end Israeli occupation of Arab lands.
The synod’s final statement, drawn up by a commission headed by Bustros, also said that “recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.
“On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God’s commandments, namely, according to God’s bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.”
Speaking at press conference, Butros 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.”
“For Christians one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people,” he said, because the “promise” was “abolished by the presence of Christ.”
In the kingdom of God, which covers the whole world, “there is no longer a favoured people, a chosen people, all men and women of every country have become the chosen people,” the Lebanese-born Butros said.
Lebanon’s Daily Star adds:
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hailed Sunday a call by Catholic bishops for the international community to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, while Israeli officials reacted angrily to the appeal.
The “participation [of Christian thinkers] in challenging the Zionist project is a necessity for Muslims not to be left alone in this confrontation, and for Arabism not to be restricted to Islam,” the Lebanese premier said in Beirut Sunday.
The bishops and patriarchs of the Middle East’s Catholic churches said at a Vatican synod on the Middle East over the weekend that Israel cannot use the biblical concept of a promised land or a chosen people to justify new settlements in Jerusalem or territorial claims.
“Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” said a final statement issued after a two-week synod chaired by Pope Benedict XVI.
The bishops’ statement also called on the international community to take “the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.”
Palestinians welcomed a call from the synod’s conclusions and highlighted the role of Christians in confronting the threat posed by Israel.