Pope Benedict XVI with Rome’s chief rabbi, last Sunday.(FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Catholic Church prepares to convene Middle East bishops next October to discuss the situation of the roughly 17 million Christians in the region, a Vatican document indicates that the Church in part blames Israel’s “occupation,” as well as the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, for hindering freedom of worship in that part of the world. The document’s authors also cite the rise of “political Islam,” but make it clear that they see the Palestine question as a root cause of problems for Christians in the region—including, presumably, Gaza Christians and Saudi Christians whose rulers do not look kindly on the worship of Jesus for reasons that don’t always have to do with Zionism.

Still, regarding Palestine, the blame goes both ways, right? Surely the Church has no interest in attracting controversy by going out of its way to lay responsibility for the bloodshed at the feet of one side over the other? “The solution to conflicts rests in the hands of the stronger country in its occupying and inflicting wars on another country,” the document argues. “Violence is in the hands of the strong and weak alike, the latter resorting to whatever violence is within reach in order to be free.” Er, this probably will not be the end of this.

Mideast Bishops Convened Amid Exodus, Violence [AP/WP]