U.S. Christian Leaders Urge Release of Hostages; Interfaith Prayers Held

Leaders of major Christian denominations, acting independently and in concert with American Jewish leadership, have voiced urgent appeals for the release of hijacked airliner passengers held hostage by Arab terrorists in Jordan and offered prayers for their safety. The vigorous response of the Christian clergymen to the latest outbreak of aerial piracy preceded the release of most of the hostages yesterday. According to the late reports, between 39 and 54 hostages, mostly Israeli nationals, are still in terrorist hands.

Appeals were issued by Terence Cardinal Cooke, prelate of the Archdiocese of New York; Dr. Robert Moss, head of the United Church of Christ in New York; A. Dale Fiers, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Mrs. Cynthia Wedel, president of the National Council of Churches; Msgr. John Oesterreicher of the Institute of Judeao-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University; the Rev. Dr. Clyde Taylor of the National Association of Evangicals; Rev. Dr. Carl Bates, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. Joseph R. Estes, of the Home Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Council, and others.

Most of the appeals were made in the form of letters and telegrams to President Nixon and Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Msgr. Oesterreicher joined with Abbot Rudolff and Father Morley of Setom Hall in a telegram to Pope Paul, urgently asking him to demand that the “terrorists” desist from carrying out “their murderous threat.” (The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Paul had made a personal intervention “with responsible authorities” for the quick release of the hostages. It was understood that the Pope had conveyed a personal plea to the Arab guerrilla leaders.)

Leaders of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, the Council of Churches of Greater Washington, the Washington Board of Rabbis and the Washington Jewish Community Council joined Friday in expressing their “moral revulsion” against the aerial hijacking and demanded the immediate release of all hostages “regardless of their religion, race, color or nationality.”

Some 1,500 persons gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Square facing UN headquarters Friday for a public interfaith prayer meeting for the hijack victims. Mayor John V. Lindsay, of New York spoke briefly. Among the clergymen participating were Bishop Horace B. Donegan, presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York; Rev. Francis X. Murphy, associate of the Papal Office for the UN; Msgr Timothy J. Flynn, of the New York Catholic Archdiocese; Mrs. Eleanor Holmes Norton, chairman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights and Rabbi Solomon Sharfman, president of the Synagogue Council of America, who presided.

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations sent a telegram to Pope Paul appealing to him to “speak out against the threatened murder of innocent persons being victimized by this wanton act of anarchy, blackmail and lawlessness.” The telegram was signed by Dr. Gerhardt. Riegner, of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Henry Siegman, of the Synagogue Council of America and Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of the American Jewish Committee’s interreligious affairs department.

George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, urged the Nixon Administration last week to “take the initiative for international action to stop piracy and banditry in the air.” Mr. Meany’s appeal was contained in a message to the Jewish Labor Committee. The Labor Zionist Organization of America called last week for a boycott of nations that harbor or aid hijackers. B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington reported that it had received the largest number of telephone calls since the 1967 Six-Day War from persons deploring the aerial hijackings. In Toronto last week 800 persons attended a prayer meeting for the hostages at the B’nai Israel Beth David Synagogue.

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