(Catholic Culture) - The Vatican has expressed intense concern about the Israeli raid on the "Freedom Flotilla" headed for the Gaza Strip on May 31.THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The problem here is twofold. The Israelis have an embargo on all ships approaching the Gaza Strip. They believe this gives them the authority to board and search every ship that attempts to come into port. In this most recent case, the Turkish government (one of the most moderate Islamic governments in the middle east) sponsored a relief flotilla to help the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis boarded the ship in a surprise commando style, which is part of their embargo enforcement, and they were greeted with violence.
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, decried the "needless loss of lives" in the attack, which left at least 20 people dead and others wounded.
Reminding reporters that Pope Benedict XVI will soon be traveling to the Middle East for a pastoral visit to Crete, Father Lombardi said that the Pontiff will follow the latest crisis there with great care....
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(Herald Sun) - A VATICAN document leaked overnight calls the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories a "political injustice".
The occupation is a "political injustice imposed on the Palestinians," the Vatican says, according to extracts quoted by Italy's ANSA news agency.
"The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories makes daily life difficult for freedom of movement, the economy and social and religious life," the text says.
The Instrumentum Laboris, a working document on an upcoming synod of bishops on the Middle East, was embargoed for release until Monday, when Pope Benedict XVI was to present it during a visit to Cyprus...
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(AP) – The Vatican said Sunday that the international community is ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and political instability in Lebanon have forced thousands to flee the region.
A working paper released during Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Cyprus to prepare for a crisis summit of Middle East bishops in Rome in October also cites the "extremist current" unleashed by the rise of "political Islam" as a threat to Christians....
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The Turkish government stands by the claim that the flotilla contained no weapons, and no weapons were being shipped. This may very well be the case from the perspective of the Turkish government, however, it looks like the type of weapons used against the Israeli commandos were personal weapons - such as knives, slingshots, metal bars, etc. The Israelis opened fire, and as a result twenty people lost their lives.
The situation in Israel is a difficult one for Christians in the West to fully comprehend. Of course, many American Evangelicals (influenced by the heretical teachings of Dispensationalism) believe the modern nation-state of Israel is the "real Israel" promised by God for the last days, and they will support the Zionist agenda of Israeli supremacy whether it's right or wrong, no matter who it hurts. On the flip side, the Islamic regimes of the Middle East have a history of being extremely intolerant tyrannies. To make matters worse, some of them have been influenced by radical Islamist ideologues who's only agenda is to wipe Israel off the map and kill every non-Muslim in the region.
It helps to step back and look at things in a dispassionate historical way.
First and foremost, as Catholic Christians we need to understand who we are, in order to understand our relation to Israel. A non-biased study of the New Testament, along with the context of early Christian writings, reveals that the Church (particularly the Catholic Church) is the "New Israel of God." The Lord brought the strictly Jewish Kingdom of Israel to an end in 33 AD with the death and resurrection of Israel's messianic King - Jesus Christ. In AD 70 the physical remnants of that strictly Jewish Kingdom were brought to an end with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. According to St. Paul the Apostle, an astute Jewish rabbi and author of two-thirds of the New Testament, the Jewish people can continue to be part of the Kingdom of Israel by submitting to Israel's King - who is none other than Jesus of Nazereth - the promised Messiah. Upon submitting to the King, they will fulfill their faith and be grafted into the New Kingdom of Israel - which is the Catholic Church. Jews who refuse to acknowledge their King will remain outside this New Kingdom of Israel - the Catholic Church. They are still Jews of course, and retain their identity as God's original chosen people, but they are incomplete without their King and are outside their own Kingdom! This was the accepted view of the early Christians and should be our view today.
What complicates this is recent history. In the late 1800s two religious-political movements began to take shape in the Western world - Dispensationalism and Zionism. Some believe these two movements were spawned by the same source known as Freemasonry, or the Masonic Lodge, and there is evidence to support this. Dispensationalism was designed for Protestant Christianity, while Zionism was designed for Judaism. A hundred years later the two would merge into what we might call "Dispensational-Zionism," and become the driving political influence of the Middle Eastern mess we know today. To make a long story short, Dispensationalism is the theology created by John Nelson Darby, and popularized by Cyrus I. Scofield (creator of the Scofield Reference Bible), which teaches that the Church is not Israel. Instead, it teaches that Israel is primarily a piece of real estate in the Middle East. That real estate, according to Dispensationalism, becomes prophetically energized once it is occupied by people who call themselves "Jews" regardless if they practice the religion of Judaism or not. Dispensationalism regards the Church as God's mere afterthought, and "accident of providence" so to speak, in which God is simply using it as an external vehicle to bring in the Gentiles while he prepares his real plan of salvation for the Jewish people (or "true Israel"). Because of this, Dispensationalism teaches that Protestant Christians MUST support the political State of Israel financially and politically, at all costs, and without reservation or doubt. As for Catholic Christians, well, they just need to stop being Catholic you see, because Dispensationalism is usually accompanied by a hefty dose of anti-Catholicism. There are many examples of this from contemporary Dispensationalist teachers, too many to count here.
As for Zionism, that was designed primarily for the Jews of the 1800s and early 1900s. However, now that Zionism has merged with Dispensationalism, we can honestly say that the majority of the world's Zionists are not Jews - but Evangelical Protestants!!!
Nevertheless, classical Zionism is simply the teaching that Jews need not wait for the Messiah to lead them back to the promised land, even though that is what their rabbis have taught them for centuries. They can and should, according to Zionism, go back themselves (without the Messiah), build up Israel all on their own, and do so using force if necessary. The history of the Jewish people in the 20th century is both complex and tragic. Zionism began in earnest during the first decades of the 20th century. It's biggest supporters initially were none other than Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. It was seen as a way to "get rid of the Jews" and simultaneously create a model socialist republic in the Middle East. It was only after World War II that Zionism took on a more humanitarian role as a refuge for persecuted survivors of the Holocaust and began to align more closely with the West - particularly the United States. In 1948 the Zionist dream became reality as the State of Israel was created. The very next day war broke out between Israel and it's Arab neighbors. The State of Israel has been fighting a series of perpetual wars (external and internal) ever since. The Turkish relief flotilla raid that has recently sparked outrage around the world is just the latest episode.
Epic heresies, over a hundred years in the making, have brought us to this point in history. The heresies that denied the Church as the New Kingdom of Israel effectively denied Jesus as the King, and in doing so not only coddled those Jews who continued to reject him, but also turned millions of Protestant Christians into their supporters. Today, the United States of America stands as the Dispensational-Zionist capitol of the world. National foreign policy is built on this religious-political ideology. A large number of the American Jewish population is strongly Zionist, while an even larger number of the American Evangelical population is strongly Dispensational. Because of this, the United States has been Israel's strongest supporter, and because of this the Israeli government has grown accustomed to thinking it can do whatever it wants because it knows the United States will back it. This is abruptly changing with the Obama administration, and as a result, Israel is now caught in a very precarious situation.
We cannot know how World War III will start, but we can be sure of how it will end. As far as the Middle East is concerned, World War III will end with the profound crippling of the Arab states, and the total annihilation of the Israeli state. Such a thought is inconceivable to many American Evangelicals who are convinced that God is miraculously protecting the Israelis. The destruction of the Israeli state will inevitably be a faith-shaking event for most American Evangelicals, unless they unshackle themselves from the Dispensational-Zionist heresy. Don't think however, the Arab nations will get off the hook. The devastation that Israel alone can bring upon them is enough to blow away a hundred years of industrial development. So in any kind of all out Arab-Israeli war will only result in losers - no winners.
As Catholic Christians there is not much we can do about this whole situation. It is the result of Protestantism meets Judaism in an epic heresy most probably spawned by Freemasonry over 150 years ago. At this point the ball is already in motion, it has been for some time, and all we can do is wait to see the outcome. There is no sense in choosing sides, or rooting for one group against the other. The Zionists and Dispensationals have in mind the very anti-Christian goal of undermining the New Kingdom of Israel (the Catholic Church) with the modern Nation-State of Israel. While the surrounding Islamic powers are just anti-Christian in general. Caught in the middle are Christians on both sides - Israeli Christians and Palestinian Christians. The one and only group we should side with is our Christian brethren. That is all. Beyond that we should simply decry the violence and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It can be tempting at times for Catholic Americans to side with Israel. While it is also tempting for Catholic Europeans to side with Palestine. The best thing we can do is leave politics out of it. The whole situation was spawned by heresy -- anti-Catholic heresy at that! We must resist temptation to choose sides and simply support our Christian brethren trapped in the middle. Pray for peace for all parties involved, and that both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims will discover the gospel of Jesus Christ as the one and only workable "roadmap to peace."