“To fulfill my religious duties
this tormented people must be represented,”By Hilarion Capucci, the exiled Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem who was also known as the “Archbishop of the Arabs,” died last week in Rome aged 94.
Capucci dedicated his life to defending Palestinian rights but was politically active across the Middle East. Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Syria and Kuwait issued postage stamps in his honor. In 1979, Pope John Paul II dispatched him to Tehran to discuss concerns the Vatican had with the new Islamic revolutionary government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, including the closure of Catholic schools.
Capucci also played an active role during the Iran hostage crisis beginning in late 1979, paying several visits to the American hostages and negotiating an agreement for their release that only collapsed at the last minute because of a leak in the French press. He did succeed in securing the release of the bodies of American soldiers who had died in the failed rescue attempt and Capucci told this writer that he received a letter from President Ronald Reagan thanking him for his efforts.
But it was Palestine for which Capucci had a special passion.