Sunday, 1 January 2017

Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, 1922-2017

Native of Aleppo.

Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Caesarea.

From Palestine to Iraq, Arabism is bound up with Christianity, and perhaps especially with Catholicism.

The roots of the Melkite separation from the Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem in order to return to Petrine Unity lay in the persistent appointment of Greeks instead of Arabs as the bishops of Arab cities, culminating, in 1724, in the purported deposition of an Arab Patriarch of Antioch in favour of an imposed and imported Greek.

The Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch remained Greeks until 1899, and those of Jerusalem remain so to this day, whereas every Melkite Patriarch, now for 293 years and counting, has been an Arab, while the recently retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem was the second Palestinian in succession to hold that office, such that any return to previous centuries' occupancy of that office by Italian missionaries is now quite inconceivable.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Melkite.

Similarly, whereas the Assyrians tend to see themselves as a distinct ethnic group, the Chaldean Catholics are far more likely to define themselves as Catholic Arabs, and have long been prominent in politics of that persuasion, quite out of proportion to their numbers.

There have been successive waves of conversion from the Assyrian to the Chaldean Patriarchate on broadly or strongly those lines, most recently since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

And that is all before speaking of the Maronites.

Sometime political prisoner in Israel.

Negotiator during the Iran hostage crisis.

He secured the release of the bodies of the American soldiers who had died in the refuelling accident during the rescue mission, and his deal for the release of the hostages collapsed only because the French press reported it before it could be approved by the Iranian Parliament.

Fighter for peace.

In 2005, he wrote the foreword to Neo-Conned!, the landmark two volume compendium of essays opposing the Iraq War by everyone from Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn to Pat Buchanan and (in his last published work) Sam Francis.

He was aboard the intercepted ship bearing aid from Lebanon that was heading for Gaza in 2009, and in 2010 he was aboard the MV Mavi Marmara, earning him a spell in Beersheba prison. He addressed the rally that greeted the Mavi Marmara's return to Istanbul.

He has appeared on Egyptian, Iraqi, Libyan, Sudanese and Syrian postage stamps.

Requeiscat in pace. Indeed, I do not hesitate to say, ora pro nobis.

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