Archbishop Hilarion Capucci was greeted as a hero when he addressed a session of the Palestine National Council in Damascus on Sunday (21 January).
SV Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat and Archbishop Capucci enter hall
SV Arafat and Archbishop Capucci applauding with audience (2 shots)
SV Archbishop embraces Khaled al-Fahoum and gives victory sign to crowd from microphone
SV Abu Ayad, member of Fatah guerrilla group
SV Archbishop speaking in Arabic to audience
GV Crowd applauds
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Background: Archbishop Hilarion Capucci was greeted as a hero when he addressed a session of the Palestine National Council in Damascus on Sunday (21 January). He is an honorary member of the Council, a parliament-in-exile, but it was the first time he had attended a session.
SYNOPSIS: The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, accompanied Monsignor Capucci into the conference hall. The Syrian-born Monsignor was released from an Israeli jail early last year. He served two years of a twelve-year prison sentence for supplying arms to Palestinian guerrillas. The delegates to the eight-day conference gave him a hero's reception. Monsignor Capucci has denied that his visit to Syria violates an agreement between the Vatican and Israel under which he was freed from jail.
Khalid al-Fahoum, the President of the Palestine National Council, warmly greeted the Archbishop. But such friendly scenes were not common at the conference, which produced a bitter struggle between rival commando groups. Although delegates unanimously adopted detailed plans to resist Egyptian-Israeli peace moves, they were unable to agree on the composition of a new executive committee. This was due mainly to demands by minority groups. But Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation, regarded as one of the more moderate groups, still dominates the 15-man executive, which includes Abu Ayad of Fatah.
When he finally addressed the council, Monsignor Capucci called for greater solidarity among the Arab states. Without such solidarity, he said, all their hopes and endeavours would be destroyed. The Archbishop, a member of the Melchite Rite Catholic community in Jerusalem, had travelled from exile in South America to make the speech. He received a three-minute ovation before his address and the delegates repeated their applause at the end.