The Magazine

The Sodano Code

The Vatican's stale policy on the Middle East.

Jul 31, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 43 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
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In another sense, however, Sodano's remarks on Vatican Radio--and similar statements by other Catholic figures, from the custodians of the holy places in Israel to the editorialists in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osserv atore Romano--are most disturbing precisely because of their datedness. The situation in the Middle East is no longer simply a battle between Israelis and Palestinians. With the increasing role of the Iranians, and the refusal of the Arab League to involve itself, the fight doesn't even really center around the Arabs.

It is, rather, a war between the Islamists and the West--a proxy fight, in which the totalitarian governments of Syria and Iran have aimed the weapon of terrorism at modern democracies. And, for the Catholic Church, the answer cannot remain the old, ritual statements about the Middle East, dusted off one more time. John Paul II had a vision for confronting totalitarianism--a way of refusing government by the lie and naming things for what they are. It is time for the Vatican to apply that vision to the Middle East.

Joseph Bottum, a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, is editor of First Things.