As an Episcopal priest, I am well aware of an unusual aspect of my denomination’s history: a “Fighting Bishop.” The Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, bishop of Louisiana, was a West Pointer who became a Confederate general and was killed at the battle of Pine Mountain.

Bishop Polk’s unusual case is, however, a far cry from that of Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in Jerusalem on August 8, 1974. Archbishop Capucci, the Greek Catholic (Melchite) Vicar of Jerusalem, was arrested by Israeli police after he had crossed the Lebanese border in his Mercedes. Under the seats, in the trunk, and concealed inside the door panels, the police found ten hand grenades, two revolvers, four Soviet submachine guns, and some plastic bombs.

More weapons and explosives were found in Archbishop Capucci’s residence—after which he reportedly signed a confession that he was not only a gun- and bomb-runner but chief paymaster for the Palestinian terrorist organization, Al Fatah. The extensive murder record of Fatah and other Arab terrorist organizations—for instance, the massacres of Jewish children in Kiryat Shemona and Ma’alot—suggests that the battle cry of these Palestinian terrorists is “Women and Children First!”

During the past year, Archbishop Capucci has made fifty trips from Lebanon to Israel. On each occasion his car was automatically waved through checkpoints and customs inspection. For although Israel is considered by many to be one of history’s bravest nations, its government has proved dangerously sensitive toward holy places and alleged holy men.

This was evident in an earlier case, in which a Christian clergyman actually got away with being an accessory to murder in the first degree.

On February 23, 1969, Jerusalem’s Supersol supermarket (near the headquarters of the Israeli rabbinate) was blown up; one of the bombs had been placed in the candy counter. Two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, were killed, and a number of other civilians were wounded.

Two Arab sisters named Odeh, ages twenty-four and twenty-two were convicted of the bombing and are now serving life sentences. But the Jerusalem Post reported that the Odeh sisters were driven through police and military checkpoints by another Arab—the Reverend Elia Khadler Khalil Khoury, age forty-five. Khoury was at that time pastor of the Anglican (Episcopal) church in Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

By striking contrast to the sentences handed down to the Odeh sisters, Khoury was merely deported, across the Jordan. Today he is the Anglican church’s parish priest in Amman.

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“There was no case against him,” explained the Reverend Canon Faik Hadded, who has just been appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury to be bishop of a new Diocese of Jerusalem (it will include Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon and will replace the present English archbishopric). Bishop-designate Haddad was unable to explain why, if there is no case against Khoury, the Anglican church has failed to conduct any official investigation—or even move in court to have Khoury’s deportation set aside.

But the files of the Jerusalem Post as fully verified by the highest authorities of the military government of Judea and Samaria reveal the following case against Khoury:

• On February 23, 1969, wearing clergy garb, Khoury drove the Odeh sisters through the checkpoints with their bombs in the trunk of his car.

• When police and soldiers searched his rectory in Ramallah, they discovered explosives, which Khoury confessed to having stored as the leading link between Arab terrorist groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

• Khoury, in his clergy garb, was easily able to transport letters, money, guns, and bombs for the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine run by Dr. George Habash, one of the leaders in the Palestinian campaign of murdering civilians and skyjacking.

The Jerusalem Post reported, and the military government recalled vividly that after Khoury was arrested, local and overseas clergy groups immediately put “considerable pressure” upon Israel’s foreign office, demanding his release. Only five days after Khoury’s arrest, the Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, visited Khoury’s Cathedral (St. George’s, in Jerusalem) and subsequently met with—and pressured—the Israeli Foreign Ministry regarding Khoury.

Because Israel is extremely sensitive about Christian clergy, the government agreed to deport rather than imprison Khoury—particularly when he and Anglican bishop Najib Cuba’in of Jerusalem both signed a promise that Khoury would involve himself in no more political activities. Bishop Cuba’in wrote to the military governor of Judea and Samaria, saying:

It is clear that the Reverend Elia Khoury has taken upon himself not to associate in any illegal or terrorist activities against Israel. Knowing him well, I am sure he will keep his promise, and I, as his superior, will assure that he will do so. It is needless to emphasize that the duties and message of my Church is to preach peace, justice and good will amongst all people. This being so, our Church disassociates itself from any illegal and destructive activities contrary to the teachings of Christianity.
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But Khoury was no more than across the Jordan when he violated this promise—and was promptly hired by the World Council of Churches.

Only this past June, Khoury was one of nineteen people elected in Cairo to the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group for several Arab terrorist organizations, one of which (Al Fatah) nominated him.

Khoury’s diocese refuses even to investigate his bloody ministry. And next Good Friday, more than 7,000 U. S. Episcopal churches are scheduled to send their offerings to this diocese “for work in the Holy Land.” Perhaps, in view of what this diocese tolerates, some Episcopalians may want to deposit a note instead of cash in the collection plate: “Thou shalt not murder.”

A similar concern should motivate the nation’s 48 million Roman Catholics. For Pope Paul VI has called upon all the world’s Catholic churches for “special prayers offered for our brethren of the Church in the Holy Land, and a collection is to be taken up for them, once a year, on Good Friday, or on another day.” The pontiff, in this thirteen-page exhortation issued last April 5, told his flock of half a billion:

Unfortunately the Church in the Holy Land is lacking in material means.… It is not possible to ask the local faithful for sufficient help, since many of them have barely enough to keep themselves alive.

Yet on the very day that the Holy Father’s moving appeal for money was issued, April 5, his Mercedes-driving Melchite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci reported to Israeli police that his residence had been robbed—in what the Jerusalem Post called “the biggest burglary in Israel’s history.” The archbishop reported that in addition to $2,250 worth of jewelry and other valuables, the thieves had gotten away with a suitcase containing $250,000 in foreign currency. (Five days later, Israeli police disclosed that this loss amounted to $25,000 rather than $250,000.)

This interesting news in the Jerusalem Post contained no mention of the Israeli law prohibiting hoarding of foreign currency. Moreover, Capucci was not jailed for this felony.

When, four months later, Capucci was arrested for transporting bombs and machine guns, Patriarch Maximos V. Hakim of Damascus joined numerous Palestinian terrorist groups in branding this arrest as a “conspiracy” against Catholics.

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Patriarch Hakim, the former Melchite archbishop of Galilee (and the first Arab to join Israel’s trade union, Histadrut), has accumulated an impressive fortune from his holdings in such enterprises as a Nazareth hotel and candle factory, vast dealings in real estate, and a travel agency that handled the visit of the Pope and the hundreds of bishops to the Holy Land.

Israeli authorities, according to Newsweek’s Jerusalem bureau chief, have at long last disclosed what the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and I have been trying for years to obtain: the police record of Patriarch Hakim’s arrest for smuggling gold coins and rings across the Lebanese border.

(Hakim has been a frequent visitor to the United States. When he visited San Francisco in 1969, he and his entourage were officially welcomed by Mayor Joseph Alioto and San Francisco’s then Auxiliary Bishop Mark Hurley. Hakim has now announced in Beirut that he will take up Capucci’s arrest with both Pope Paul and President Gerald Ford.)

Any Israelis who may be outraged by such behavior on the part of Christian bishops may now contemplate with delight the fact that from Alabama, of all places, the Almighty seems very possibly to have summoned up an asp for Hakim’s bosom. For the Melchite bishops selected as Hakim’s successor in Galilee the Reverend Joseph Raya of Birmingham—a beguiling and irrepressible clergyman who was once thrown out of Egypt by Hakim’s good friend, the late King Farouk.

Archbishop Raya was further tempered by a savage beating given him by the Ku Klux Klan, which objected to his advocacy of civil rights and his friendliness with Birmingham’s Jewish community.

On August 3 during an exclusive interview in Haifa, Archbishop Raya confirmed to me reports that his life has been threatened by Al Fatah. Even at that point, before the arrest of Archbishop Capucci, there were a number of reasons for the Fatah threats on his life, such as:

• Immediately after he arrived in Haifa, he ordered the elimination of all anti-Semitic references from his church’s liturgy. (By contrast, the predominantly Arab Anglican church in the Holy Land has reportedly planned to develop a prayer book whose psalms eliminate all mention of Israel.)

• Archbishop Raya publicly prayed for Israel’s border soldiers and called upon his clergy to join him in offering to donate blood during the bloody fighting in last October’s Yom Kippur war.

• He offered, during this war, to serve in any way he was needed, and suggested that perhaps he could help by collecting garbage.

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• When the war was over and the Israeli government was faced with mountainous war costs, Archbishop Raya called on his entire flock to join him in helping the government meet this staggering financial crisis.

All of this has astounded the Israeli government, in whose side Raya has often been something of a thorn. For he has demanded decent housing for Arab families in Haifa, as well as the right of Arab families to return to their villages of Ikrit and Bar Am, near the Lebanese border, which were evacuated in the 1948 War of Independence. “I love Israel too much not to ask for this justice,” he explains in regard to his leading numerous protest demonstrations.

What really incensed his predecessor, Patriarch Hakim, was Archbishop Raya’s virtually giving away of 1,000 dunams of church land to fifty-nine Muslim tenant families who have farmed it for generations and who, according to Raya, were “enslaved.”

I asked Raya how Hakim responded to this.

“He fumed—and I let him!” said the archbishop of Galilee. He went on to disclose a proposal on which he had been writing extensively: that the Roman Catholics in Jerusalem give up the holy places to the Orthodox, rather than continuing to present “a scandal of Christian division in the Holy City.”

This suggestion (the equivalent of offering a sizable chunk of Vatican City to the Southern Baptist Convention) was shocking enough, but Archbishop Raya, after the arrest of Archbishop Capucci, offered an even more dangerous observation: “I can say that the Israeli government cannot be so unjust as to fabricate reports to implicate people, particularly a religious man, if there is no truth in the matter.” Raya went on to say that he had recently intervened with Israeli authorities when Capucci was arrested on another occasion—and then quietly released.

On August 22, page one of the Beirut Daily Star featured a photograph of Patriarch Hakim meeting with the same Al Fatah that has threatened the life of his brother bishop in Galilee.

On September 17, Archbishop Joseph Raya announced that he is resigning to return to the United States because “I am protesting the illegal interference of the Pope and Maximos V in my diocese.”

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