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Hilarion Capucci

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Archbishop Hilarion Capucci
هيلاريون كابوتشي
Archbishop of Caesarea
Capucci in vestments smiling
His Excellency Hilarion Capucci, 2012
Native name
هيلاريون كابوتشي
ChurchMelkite Greek Catholic
SeeEparchate of Caesarea
In office9 September 1968 – 24 October 1988
Ordination20 July 1947
Consecration30 July 1965
Personal details
Born(1922-03-02)2 March 1922
Aleppo, Syria
Died 1 January 2017(2017-01-01) (aged 94)
Rome, Italy

Hilarion Capucci (in Arabic:هيلاريون كابوتشي) (2 March 1922 – 1 January 2017) was a Syrian Catholic bishop who served as the titular archbishop of Caesarea in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Early years

He was born in Aleppo, Syria to Bashir Capucci (father) and Chafika Rabbath (mother) and was educated at St. Anne's Seminary in Jerusalem.[1] During his time in office, he was an opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and aligned himself with the Palestinian cause.

On 20 July 1947, he was ordained a priest of the Basilian Alepian Order. On 30 July 1965, he was elected archbishop and consecrated.[2]

Arrest and imprisonment

On 18 August 1974 he was arrested by security forces of Israel for smuggling weapons into the West Bank in a Mercedes sedan.[3] He was subsequently convicted by Israeli Martial court of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to the Palestine Liberation Army and sentenced to 12 years in prison.[4][5]

Maximos V, the patriarch of the Melkite Church, was a vocal critic of Capucci's imprisonment. He was quoted as saying, "Is this Bishop reprehensible if he thought it was his duty to bear arms? If we go back in history we find other bishops who smuggled weapons, gave their lives and committed other illegal actions to save Jews from Nazi occupation. I do not see why a man who is ready to save Arabs should be condemned." Maximos also asserted that Israel had entered East Jerusalem illegally and against United Nations resolutions.[6]

Capucci was among the prisoners whose release was demanded by Palestinian hijackers of the Kfar Yuval hostage crisis in 1975,[7] and of German and Palestinian hijackers of Air France Flight 139 (the Entebbe hostage crisis), in 1976.[8]

He was released two years later, in 1978, due to intervention by the Vatican, after having served four years of the 12-years sentence.[3]

Negotiating the 1979 Iran hostage crisis

Capucci seated at a table
Hilarion Capucci (1988)

Capucci played a key role during the Iran hostage crisis. He made several visits to the hostages, and in early May 1980 he obtained the release of the bodies of the American soldiers who had died in the refueling accident during the rescue mission.[9] Capucci also negotiated an agreement for the release of the hostages, but the plan collapsed because the French press published the story before the agreement had been approved by Iran's Parliament.[10]

Opposition to the 2003 Iraq War

An opponent of the Iraq War, Capucci wrote the foreword for the book Neo-Conned!: Just War Principles a Condemnation of War in Iraq, by John Sharpe.

Participation aboard the 2009 Gaza aid ship

In 2009, Capucci was on a Lebanese ship bound for Gaza which was seized by Israeli forces when the ship attempted to violate the Israeli naval blockade.[11][12]

Participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla

In May 2010, Capucci participated in the Free Gaza Movement's aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip (see also Gaza flotilla raid). He was a passenger on MV Mavi Marmara,[13] which was seized in the early hours of Monday, 31 May, by the Israeli Navy, with nine people killed and many injured.[14] He was held in Beersheba prison and deported.[15] During a reception for the return of the Mavi Marmara to Istanbul, he gave a speech to the assembly.[16]

Honors by Muslim countries

The governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Syria have honored Capucci with postage stamps.[17]


On 14 June 2009 he spoke at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) convention's annual Palestine Luncheon.[18]


On 1 January 2017, the Vatican announced that Capucci had died in Rome, aged 94.[19][20]


  1. ^ Gruyter, Walter de (1 January 2007). Who's Who in the Arab World 2007–2008. Publitec Publications. p. 232. ISBN 9783110930047.
  2. ^ "Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, B.A." Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b Zile, Dexter Van (8 June 2010), "Gun-Running Bishop On Flotilla", The Camera: Media Report, 19 (2): 10–11, ISSN 1086-7503
  4. ^ Casper, Lionel I. (2003). The rape of Palestine and the struggle for Jerusalem. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 189. ISBN 978-965-229-297-1.
  5. ^ Steve Weizman (5 February 2009). "Israel impounds Gaza-bound ship". Associated Press. Retrieved 16 June 2017 – via Toronto Star.
  6. ^ Felix Corley, "Obituary – Patriarch Maximos," The Independent, 5 July 2001, p. 6.
  7. ^ Barry Rubin; Judith Colp Rubin (28 January 2015). Chronologies of Modern Terrorism. Routledge. p. 190. ISBN 978-1-317-47465-4.
  8. ^ Simon Dunstan (January 2011). Entebbe: The Most Daring Raid of Israel's Special Forces. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-4488-1868-6.
  9. ^ "The Montreal Gazette – Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Youngstown Vindicator – Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Archbishop who ran arms to PLO said aboard seized Gaza aid ship" Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Haaretz, 5 February 2009
  12. ^ "Archbishop Capucci, the "monk" of the Palestinian issue". Arab-West Report. 2009. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Aboard MV Blue Marmara". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Israel moves to stop Gaza aid fleet", Al Jazeera, 31 March 2010
  15. ^ "Israel to deport former Jerusalem Archbishop on board flotilla". Maan News Agency. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  16. ^ Video, 9;00 min on YouTube. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  17. ^ "ADC: In Memoriam: Archbishop Hilarion Capucci". www.adc.org. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  18. ^ [1] Archived 8 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "سفارة فلسطين في الفاتيكان تنعى مطران القد في المنفى "كابوتشي"". وكالة خبر الفلسطينية للصحافة. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  20. ^ "وفاة الأب الثائ "كابوتشي" عن 94 عاما". وكالة وطن للأنباء. Retrieved 1 January 2017.

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