by Christopher Howse
ARCHBISHOP Hilarion Capucci has reacted strongly to the refusal of the United States to grant him an entry visa for a fundraising trip due to have begun on Saturday.
The US embassy in Rome said that the Melkite-Rite archbishop's application had been denied because of his conviction in 1974 by an Israeli court on charges of providing weapons and explosives to Arab guerillas.
The 59-year-old prelate was Melkite-Rite vicar of Jerusalem from 1965 until his conviction in 1974. Sentenced to a 12-year prison term, he was released in 1977 after negotiations between the Vatican and the Israeli government.
Since 1979 Archbishop Capucci has been Pope John Paul ll's apostolic visitor to the Melkite-Rite communities of Western Europe.
"It surprises me."• said the archbishop, "coming as it does from a country which calls itself democratic and free, and which, moreover, had expressed to me officially and in writing its gratitude for my intervening in the matter of the hostages in Teheran."
In 1980 then Secretary of State Edmund Muskie had written Archbishop Capucci to thank the churchman for going to Iran to try to negotiate the release of the
hostages -arid for effecting the release of the bodies of the Americans killed in the abortive attempt to rescue the hostages.
After having obtained the release of the corpses, Archbishop Capucci accompanied the bodies to Zurich, Switzerland.
Archbishop Capucci said that his involvement in Iran had been at the specific request of the US government and that he had often been visited on such matters by Robert Wagner, personal representative of former President Jimmy Carter to the Vatican.
Archbishop Capucci said the denial of his application is "a formal violation of human rights, an error from every point of view."
Archbishop Capucci said he would not reapply for a US visa.