New York City, N.Y., Oct 31, 2010 / 05:55 am
The Synod for the Middle East, a historic gathering of the region's bishops, concluded October 24, amid controversy over alleged bias in its concluding message. One expert on the region told CNA that the document reflected pastoral needs, not a political agenda.
The bishops' concluding “Message to the People of God” criticized Israel in detail, but omitted most of the criticisms made against Islamic governments during the synod. Some observers took remarks about using religion to “justify injustices” as a blanket rebuke of Israel, a charge participants denied.
Shortly after his return from Rome, synod participant Monsignor Robert Stern, secretary general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, spoke with CNA about some of the considerations that shaped the synod's concluding message.
“The synod really didn't have a political focus at all,” Msgr. Stern said, recalling that its main purposes were to strengthen bonds between diverse groups of Catholics, and to ensure a continuing Middle Eastern Christian presence and witness.