İlknur Şebnem Öztemel – TDO – Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who as the head of the Greek Catholic Church in Jerusalem and was arrested in 1974 as he was helping Palestinians, died in Rome, at 94.
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, praised Archbishop Capucci for defending the rights of the Palestinian people.
Capucci was appointed as the archbishop to Jerusalem, West Bank and central Israel, for tiny Orthodox population of 4,500 Arabs, in 1965. As a cleric, he was free to travel around Israel-Lebanon border without inspection. In August 1968, he was objected to clerical discipline as Jewish officials found Kalashnikovs, dynamites, pistols and detonators in his car. Also authoritiesclaimed that he was involved in a plan to fire three Katyusha rockets during U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger’s visit in May, 1974. Furthermore, he was accused of smuggling between collapsed borders.
On 9 December, 1974, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. In the court, he said if Jesus were alive, they would have wept together. On June 1976 Palestinian militants hijacked an Air France plane and demanded release of 40 prisoners, including him. A week later Israeli commanders rescued hostages and Capucci’s punishment ended in 1977, after Likud Party took power and Pope requested new government to free him.
Later he was sent to Latin America. However, his actions irritated Vatican as he went to Damascus for attending the meeting of National Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization which he was a member of. He was also on board of Turkish-owned ship that was attacked by Israeli military forces, on road to Gaza for bringing humanitarian aid, in 2010.
In an interview, he said his goal was to establish a free, sovereign and independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital.