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December 25, 1981 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-12-25

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Friday, December 25, 1981 53

Capucci's Actions Strain M.E. Peace Efforts


(Editor's note: Rudloff,
a Benedictine priest, was
in charge of the Dormi-
tion Abbey in Jerusalem
from 1962 until his re-
tirement in 1969. This ar-
ticle is reprinted from the
ADL Bulletin, national
publication of the Anti-
Defamation League of
Bnai Brith.)
Melchite Archbishop Abu
Sa'ada was a very lovable
—an. He was simple, unpre-
, atious, and lived au-
(ht erely on one of the side
streets in the Old City. Ar-
chbishop Abu Sa'ada was
loved by his faithful follow-
, ers. When he died, a radical
change," occurred.
The first thing his suc-
cessor, Hilarion Capucci,
did was move his residence
to a lovely villa in the sub-
urbs. He was described by
one journalist as a "jovial
prelate with a penchant for
the good life." My personal
acquaintance with Capucci
and some members of the
Melchite Church only con-
firms these impressions: ac-
cording to these members,
the new archibishop, in con-
trast to his predecessor,
didn't show a great deal of
interest in his simple people
and didn't care very much
about their well-being.
On Aug. 18, 1974, Ar-
chbishop Capudci found
himself in serious trouble
with the Israeli authorities.
He was arrested after the
police discovered large
quanitites of weapons and
explosives hidden in his
Mercedes sedan.
These are not the usual
trappings of a Christian
priest. Under the circum-
stances, his later asser-
tion that he is a disciple of
Jesus — whom he calls
the first fedayeen —
sounds blasphemous.
After being tried and con-
victed, Archbishop Capucci
was sentenced on Dec. 9,
1974 to 12 years in prison.
The archbishop was well
treated in prison, even
though he complained
about many inconveniences
and a lack of respect. He
maintained a quasi
hunger-strike, but he par-
took willingly of concen-
trated, vitamin-packed liq-
uid food. Medical sources
said at the time that
could continue this diet -in-
definitely without adverse
He was allowed to celeb-
rate the liturgy in his cell.
He was visited periodically
by representatives of the
d Cross and by members
his Church. He did not
ant to mix with other pris-
oners and voluntarily re-
mained in his solitary cell.
The Vatican was de-
eply concerned. When
Archbishop Capucci sent
a letter to Pope Paul VI,
describing his "suffering
in prison for peace and
reconciliation among the
peoples of the Middle
East," the Pope re-
sponded with a warm
personal letter in which
he conferred "a very spe-
cial apostolic benedic-

tion" upon Capucci.
Eventually, Israel began
negotiations with Vatican
authorities who argued that
the archbishop's failing
health justified his early re-
lease on humanitarian
grounds. (It should be
pointed out, though, that
his ailments were to a great
extent, self-inflicted. He re-
fused to ever leave his cell,
and then complained about
lack of movement.)
An understanding was
reached between the two
sides that included the fol-
lowing conditions:
• Capucci would not be
allowed to make anti-Israeli
propaganda for the Arabs;
• He would be posted far
from the Middle East;
• The Pope's letter would
not deny Capucci's guilt.
So on Nov. 3, 1977, when
Capucci had finished almost
three years of his 12-year
sentence, the Apostolic
Delegate to Jerusalem, Ar-
chbishop William Carew,
delivered a letter from Pope
Paul VI to President Katzir.
It asked the President of the
state of Israel in favor of Ar-
chibishop HilariOn Capucci
and to have him released
from prison . . . we are con-
fident that this release will
not be detrimental to the
state of Israel."
His sentence com-
muted, the archbishop
was escorted to Ben-
Gurfon Airport on No-
vember 6, 1977, and put
on a commercial flight to
Rome. According to Vat-
ican Radio, "the news
was received with pro-
found satisfaction by the
Holy See . . . The gesture
made by the President of
Israel will certainly be
welcomed . . . by the
Christian communities in
the Holy Land and in par-
ticular by the Melchite
After celebrating Mass in
a Rome clinic, the Ar-
chbishop held a meeting
with a representative of the
Palestine Liberation
Organization, Shafik al-
Hout. It was at this meeting
that he said, "Jesus Christ
was the first fedayeen. I am
just following his example."
Capucci also was quoted as
saying, "In Jerusalem I left
my heart. I am married to
Jerusalem. Without her I
am a walking corpse. The
Pope had to accept Israel's
conditions for Thy release,
and 'God thanks him for
what he did . . . but the
conditions were worse than
a death sentence."
At the meeting with al-
Hout, he said that he would
have preferred to stay in
prison if it meant staying in
Jerusalem. But he said he
was still working on a way
to return. He told al-Hout to
take this message back to
the Palestinians: "Stay in
your place and fight to get
Jerusalem back."

Capucci went on to
Venezuela, and while
there celebrated a mass
"in memory of the victims
of the Zionist invasion of
Lebanon, and in protest
against the genocide


perpetrated against the
Arab people." Among
critical voices heard was
an article in Resumen: "It
is one thing to treat a
theme of the Arab-Israeli
conflict objectively, with
documentation, and it is
another thing to serve
propaganda pamphlets
which revive the myths
which make Capucci a
Jesus and the Israelis
deicidal mercenaries."
From Venezuela, Capucci
proceeded to Argentina.
While the Moslem Arabs
praised him as a defender of
Palestinian interests, La
Association Catolica pub-
licly disapproved of his
visit, describing Capucci as
an ally of international
arms smugglers.
When Capucci showed up
in Damascus on Jan. 16,
1979, to attend meetings of
the Palestine National
Council (PNC), the supreme
authority of the PLO, which
had elected him an honor-
ary member earlier that
week, his appearance
caused "acute embarrass-
ment to the Vatican," ac-
cording to news reports.
The Vatican said that
-Capucci "made the trip to
Damascus on his own initia-
tive, without the authoriza-
tion of the Holy See and
without having previously
informed the Holy See."
In an interview with a
Lebanese newspaper,
Capucci claimed there was
nothing in the Israel-
Vatican deal to prevent him
from making short visits to
the Middle East. Neverthe-
less, Pope John Paul II or-
dered a two-pronged inves-
tigation: to bring to light
the circumstances in which
Capucci left the country
where he had agreed to live;
to determine 'whether
Capucci intended to obey
the Vatican order to return
immediately to South
Capucci was sum-
moned to Rome, but first
stopped off in Teheran to
congratulate Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini on
the Iranian revolution.
Prior to Capucci's arrival
in Rome, Msgr. Ibrahim
Ayad (an official of the
Latin Patriarchate of
Jerusalem and himself a
member of the PNC) ex-
plained the trip as
Capucci's attempt "to
clarify with the Pope his
open support for the
Palestinian cause."
On May 7, 1979, Capucci
was received in private

audience by Pope John Paul
II, together with Patriarch
Maximos V Hakim of Anti-
och. Capucci was assigned
by the Pope as a visitor or
inspector of Greek-Melchite
communities in Western
Europe; his residence would
be in Rome.
The NeW York Times re-
ported several days later:
"After the audience, the
Vatican's Secretary of State
presented a statement to
the Israeli Embassy in
Rome outlining the com-
mitments that the Bishop
has assumed . . . Israeli
diplomats expressed satis-
faction over the way the
Pontiff and his aides had
treated the matter."
After meeting John Paul
II, Capucci made a declara-
tion to the effect that the
Pope, "who fought in his
country against the Nazis,"
had "understood" Capucci's
"problem." But according to
reliable sources, when
Capucci told the Pope, "I de-
fended my people just as you
did yours in Poland," the
Pope raised his finger at
him and said, "In Poland we
defended morality without
engaging in politics
whereas you engaged in
politics without taking
morality into account."
. According to Patriarch
Maximos, Capucci's
attendance at the Palesti-
nian talks in Damascus had
not been discussed. "That is
water under the bridge."
Capucci showed little
interest in his new job
with the Melchite com-
munities of France, Swit-
zerland, Belgium and the
Netherlands. He said, in
an interview published in
the Rome daily Il Tiempo:
"My ties to Jerusalem.
have not been cut . . .
What counts is that I, a
Bishop in exile, have not
been cut off from
Jerusalem. My patriarch
assured me that once
political problems are
solved, I will return to
work as his vicar in
Capucci's political activi-
ties persisted in Western
Europe. When Yasir Arafat
visited Spain in September
1979, Archbishop Capucci
appeared with him. The fol-
lowing February, Capucci
visited the American hos-
tages in Teheran. He as-
serted that "despite the
poisonous American public-
ity, the hostages were in
perfect health.
During his Easter visit to
the hostages, the Ar-
chbishop again stated, "The
hostages enjoy freedom. My
food in the prison of the Is-
raeli executioners was
worse than animals get, but
the food served to the .hos-
tages is better than my
meals in Rome at present."
Israel's Foreign Minister,
Yitzhak Shamir, stated in
the Knesset on July 2, 1980
that the Vatican had in-
formed Israel that it was
taking steps to honor the
agreement under which Ar-
chbishop Capucci was re-
leased by Israel from prison.
One could say that

Capucci up to this point had Defamation League in its
acted without the immediate condemnation,
authorization of the Vati- the encounter was "ill-
can, which appeared em- considered" at a time when
barrassed by his activities. "international terrorism,
As late as May, 1980, the -spearheaded by the PLO, is
Vatican had expressed dis- on the rise . . . when nuns
approval of Capucci's visits and a Roman Catholic
to Iran.
bishop are senselessly mur-
A turning point came in dered (in El Salvador) and
August 1980, when Pope voices raised in alarm
John Paul II entrusted around the world."
Capucci with a delicate
The man who arranged
job in Iran. The small the meeting was none
Roman Catholic commu- other than Archbishop
nity in that country had Hilarion Capucci.
become the target of
Within months of ADL's
strong official pressure. and other protests, an
Priests and nuns had encouraging sign appeared
been deported, others to be coming from the Vati-
were held in detention, can — the appointment of
and the 14 Catholic Archimandrite Lufti
schools faced almost cer- Laham, administrator of
tain closure.
the Melchite Church in
The Pope entrusted Jerusalem, to succeed
Capucci with the tricky job Capucci as archbishop.
of resolving the problem.
After an audience with the
Pontiff, the archbishop Israeli Officials
traveled to Teheran. The Cancel Meeting
Papal Nuncio, Archbishop
Annibale Bugnini, was re- With New Vicar
ported to be "clearly im- • JERUSALEM — Israeli
pressed and is understood to officials have cancelled a
have repoi-ted favorably to meeting with Lufti Laham,
the successor to Hilarion
the Vatican."
On his return to Rome the Capucci as Greek Catholic
archibishop told reporters patriarchal
that "seven of the 14 Roman Jerusalem. The cancella-
Catholic schools occupied by tion was made in the wake
Muslim revolutionary of Lufti's inaugural address
guards earlier in the year earlier this month, which
would be allowed to re- officials regarded .,as politi-
cal and hostile.
"He (Lufti) referred fre-
On March 18, 1981, a
meeting in Rome was held quently to Capucci . . . and
between Cardinal Agostino kept emphasizing his own
Casaroli, the Vatican Secre- Arab origins," one Israeli of-
tary of State, and Farouk ficial said. "The speech had
Kaddoumi, head of the a political tone that was un-
PLO's political department:. seemly for a religious
As stated by the Anti- event."



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