The Christian exodus from PA-controlled territories continues, religious freedom under Moslem control is not expected – yet the Vatican issues a document blaming the “occupation.”

The document released this week prefaces a meeting that Pope Benedictus XVI will hold nine months from now with 150 bishops in the Middle East. The plight of the increasingly dwindling Christian minority in the region, the reasons for the exodus, and the discrimination faced by Christians will be the main issues.

The document lists several causes for the current situation in the PA, Iraq, and elsewhere, including the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the growth of “political Islam” in countries like Egypt, radical Islamic terrorism – and Israel’s "occupation."

Though it is a widely accepted truism that the religious freedom granted by Israel surpasses by far that found in Moslem lands, the Vatican report says the “occupation” makes life difficult for daily Christian life, in that access to holy places is restricted.

During a visit of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Israel, a very senior figure in one of the main Churches in Israel told her privately that the members of his community are well aware that freedom of religion will only be provided by Israel, and that therefore she should not promote the division of Jerusalem. He further told her of the struggles he and his flock were forced to wage against the PA wherever it received control.

Without noting a specific country, the Vatican document states generally, "The solution to conflicts rests in the hands of the stronger country in its occupying and inflicting wars on another country."

Many cases of Arab harassment of Christians in PA areas have been reported in recent years, and the phenomenon of Christians seeking to leave the area is not new. Back in May 2004, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, visited then-President Moshe Katzav in Jerusalem and acknowledged that the “increasing Christian emigration from the Holy Land in general, and Bethlehem in particular, is troubling to the Vatican.”

See Israel National Newsop-ed article: Palestinian Christian suffering by historian Dr. Alex Grobman