Some Jews also have been angered by Benedict’s reaching out to Catholic traditionalists, including his revival of a prayer for the conversion of Jews.
Benedict visited the Holy Land last year in a pilgrimage meant largely to boost interfaith relations. In January, he visited a Rome synagogue.
The Mideast meeting at the Vatican involved about 185 participants, including nine patriarchs of the Mideast’s ancient Christian churches and representatives from 13 other Christian communities. A rabbi and two Muslim clerics were invited to the meeting as well.
The exodus of the faithful from the birthplace of Christianity was a major theme of the gathering. The Catholic church long has been a minority in the Middle East, but its presence is shrinking further as a result of conflict, discrimination and economic problems.
“Peace is possible. Peace is urgent,” Benedict said in his homily. “Peace is also the best remedy to avoid the emigration from the Middle East.”
The pope also called freedom of religion “one of the fundamental human rights, which each state should always respect” and said the issue should be the subject of dialogue with Muslims.
The pontiff said that while freedom of worship exists in many Mideast countries, the space given to the actual freedom to practice “is many times very limited.” Expanding this space, he said, is necessary to guarantee “true freedom to live and profess one’s faith.”
According to Vatican statistics, Catholics represent just 1.6 percent of the region’s population. Christians as a whole represent 5.62 percent.
Mr. Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, urged Christians not to flee the region. “Israel views their presence in the Middle East as a blessing and regrets their decline in Arab countries,” he said.
The Palestinians welcomed the synod’s conclusions in a statement released by Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to the Palestinian leadership. “The international community must uphold its moral and legal responsibility to put a speedy end to the illegal Israel occupation,” Mr. Erekat said.
Also Sunday, Benedict announced that the 2012 synod would be dedicated to the theme of evangelization. The pontiff recently created a new Vatican office, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, to revive Christianity in Europe, part of his efforts to counter secular trends in traditionally Christian countries.
Ian Deitch reported from Jerusalem.
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