Bishop who smuggled arms to Palestinians dies in Rome

Hilarion Capucci, 94, who spent four years in Israeli prison and participated in Gaza flotillas, mourned as a ‘martyr’ by PA

Archbishop Hilarion Capucci (photo credit: CC BY-SA, Piotr Zygulski/Wikimedia Commons)
Archbishop Hilarion Capucci (photo credit: CC BY-SA, Piotr Zygulski/Wikimedia Commons)

A Syrian Catholic bishop famous for his support of Palestinians, who was once imprisoned by Israel for smuggling weapons to West Bank terrorists, died Sunday at the age of 94.

Born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1922, Hilarion Capucci served as the patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem as well as the titular archbishop of Caesarea for the Greek Catholic Church. He was also a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause.

In 1974, Capucci, then a resident of East Jerusalem, was arrested by Israeli security forces for smuggling arms to the Palestinian Liberation Army (the military wing of the PLO) in the West Bank, using his diplomatic status as cover. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

He was one of the prisoners whose release was demanded in 1976 by the terrorists in the Entebbe hostage crisis, but he wasn’t freed until two years later, following intervention by the Vatican. Upon his release, he was exiled to Rome.

He continued advocating for the Palestinians throughout his life, taking part in a flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in 2009, and again in 2010, when he sailed on the Mavi Marmara.

In 2013 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented Capucci with a medal of honor in Rome for his longtime support of the Palestinian people.

The official Palestinian Wafa news agency quoted a spokesperson for the PA who described Capucci as a martyr for Jerusalem and a “brave fighter.”

His death was also mourned by Hamas, the terror organization the rules Gaza, which praised him for a life devoted to “defending the Palestinian people and their just cause.”

During his lifetime he was honored by appearing on postage stamps in Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Syria.

The Vatican announced his death in Rome.

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