Israel said Sunday that a meeting of Middle East bishops was hijacked by enemies of the Jewish state, after the gathering at the Vatican largely blamed Israel for conflict in the region.
In a communique at the end of their two-week meeting, the bishops demanded that Israel accept U.N. resolutions calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands, and told Israel it shouldn't use the Bible to justify "injustices" against the Palestinians.
But the bishops attending the gathering issued their conclusions on Saturday. They said they had "reflected" on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live and on the status of Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti-Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel.
The Palestinians welcomed the synod's conclusions in a statement released by Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to the Palestinian leadership. "The international community must uphold its moral and legal responsibility to put a speedy end to the illegal Israel occupation," Erekat said.
Also Sunday, Benedict announced that the 2012 synod would be dedicated to the theme of evangelization. The pontiff has recently created a new Vatican office — the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization — to revive Christianity in Europe, part of his efforts to counter secular trends in traditionally Christian countries.