Hilarion Capucci

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Hilarion Capucci (born 2 March 1922) is the retired titular archbishop of Caesarea for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He was born in Aleppo, Syria. During his time in office, he was an opponent of Israel, aligning himself with the Palestinians.

His Excellency Hilarion Capucci

On 20 July 1947, he was ordained a priest of the Basilian Alepian Order. On 30 July 1965, he was appointed archbishop and consecrated.[1]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

On 18 August 1974 he was arrested by Israeli police for smuggling weapons into the West Bank in a Mercedes sedan.[2] He was subsequently convicted by an Israeli court of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to the Palestine Liberation Army and sentenced to 12 years in prison.[3][4]

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.[5]

Capucci was among the prisoners whose release was demanded by Palestinian hijackers of the Kfar Yuval hostage crisis in 1975,[6] and of German and Palestinian hijackers of Air France Flight 139 (the Entebbe hostage crisis), in 1976.[7]

He was released two years later, in 1978, due to intervention by the Vatican, after having served four years of the 12-years sentence.[2]

Negotiating the 1979 Iran hostage crisis[edit]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Opposition to the 2003 Iraq War[edit]

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[edit]

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.[10][11]

Participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla[edit]

In May 2010 Capucci participated in Free Gaza Movement's aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip (see also Gaza flotilla raid). He was a passenger on MV Mavi Marmara,[12] which was seized in the early hours of Monday 31 May by the Israeli Navy, with nine people killed and many injured.[13] He was held in Beersheba prison and deported.[14] During a reception for the return of the Mavi Marmara to Istanbul, he gave a speech to the assembly.[15]

Honors by Muslim countries[edit]

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


On 14 June 2009 he spoke at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) convention annual Palestine Luncheon.[16]


  1. ^ "Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, B.A.". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Zile, Dexter Van (2010), "Gun-Running Bishop On Flotilla", The Camera: Media Report, 19 (2): 10–11, ISSN 1086-7503 
  3. ^ The rape of Palestine and the struggle for Jerusalem, Lionel I. Casper, Gefen Publishing House Ltd, 2003, ISBN 978-965-229-297-1
  4. ^ Steve Weizman. "Israeli navy: Lebanese aid boat impounded". Google.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  5. ^ Felix Corley, "Obituary - Patriarch Maximos," The Independent, 5 July 2001, p. 6.
  6. ^ Barry Rubin; Judith Colp Rubin (28 January 2015). Chronologies of Modern Terrorism. Routledge. p. 190. ISBN 978-1-317-47465-4. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Youngstown Vindicator - Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Archbishop who ran arms to PLO said aboard seized Gaza aid ship", Haaretz, February 5, 2009
  11. ^ "Archbishop Capucci, the "monk" of the Palestinian issue". Arab-West Report. 2009. 
  12. ^ "Aboard MV Blue Marmara". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Israel moves to stop Gaza aid fleet", Al Jazeera, March 31, 2010
  14. ^ "Israel to deport former Jerusalem Archbishop on board flotilla". Maan News Agency. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Video, 9;00 min on YouTube retrieved Dec 27, 2010
  16. ^ [1] Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]