Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Vatican Disavows Capucci

January 26, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The appearance of Msgr. Hilarion Capucci, the former Greek Melchite Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem, at the Palestine National Council conference in Damascus this week where he espoused the cause of the Palestine Liberation Organization caused acute embarrassment to the Vatican. The Holy See issued a special statement yesterday saying that Capucci who had been assigned to pastoral, duties in Latin America, “made the trip to Damascus on his own initiative, without the authorization of the Holy See and without.” having previously informed the Holy See.”

It was learned that this official disavowal by the Vatican of Capucci’s actions followed on the heels of a high level meeting Tuesday night between the Israel Embassy here and a top Vatican spokesman. Israel released Capucci from prison in 1977 after he served three years of a 12-year sentence for gunrunning for the Palestinian across the Lebanese Israeli border.

The Vatican promised Israel that Capucci would not be assigned again to the Middle East, and in November 1977 he was sent to Latin America as a Vatican visitor to Greek Melchite Catholic communities there. President Ephraim Katzir of Israel agreed to Capucci’s release in 1977 when the Vatican intervened with a personal request by the late Pope Paul VI. After a brief sojourn at a Rome sanitarium, Capucci was then transferred to Buenos Aires.

In an interview with Lebanese newspaper “Al Watun,” this week, Capucci claimed there was nothing in the Israel-Vatican deal to prevent him making short visits to the Middle East.


Nevertheless, Pope John Pool II has ordered the Vatican Secretary of State to open two investigations. One, to be carried out by the Papal Nunciate of Venezuela, Mage. Giovanni Mariani, is to bring to light the circumstances in which Capucci left the country where he had agreed to live.

The second is entrusted to the Papal Nunciate of Damascus, Msgr. Angelo Pedroni, who is to report back to the Vatican on whether Capucci intends to obey the Vatican order to return immediately to South America. For the Church, Capucci is guilty of having disobeyed the order to reside in South America and tend to the 250,000 Greek Melchite Catholics there.

Recommended from JTA