ARCHBISHOP Annibale Bugnini, who as papal pro-nuncio to Iran tried to negotiate the release of the US hostages during the turbulent aftermath of the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini, was buried on July 5.
Archbishop Bugnini, an Italian who would have been 70 on July 14. died on July 3 in a Rome clinic following several weeks in hospital. He had been papal pro-nuncio to Iran since January. 1976.
Archbishop Bugnini became internationally-known outside church circles when he tried on behalf of the Vatican to mediate the release of the 52 US hostages held in Iran after the takeover of the US Embassy on November 4. 1979. The hostages were released January 20, 1981 after a long series of negotiations by the US and Iranian governments.
Vatican efforts to mediate the release brought rebuke from Khomeini but Archbishop Bugnini was more successful in helping negotiate the return of the corpses of eight US servicemen killed in an abortive attempt to rescue the hostages and in interceding for Catholic missionaries in Iran accused of spying.
Within the Church, however, Archbishop Bugnini was best known for his work on liturgical reform during the Second Vatican Council. He was secretary of the commission which prepared the council's liturgy document and secretary of the council responsible for overseeing the implementation of the liturgical reforms proposed at Vatican II.
In the homily at Archbishop Bugnini's burial Mass celebrated in Rome's St Joachim's Church, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli praised the archbishop's dedication to promoting. liturgical reform as outlined by Vatican 11.
"No one, even among those who would dissent from some of the concrete choices favoured by him in the course of that complex work of modification and transformation which the times made necessary and urgent, could legitimately challenge the dedication and the enthusiasm with which the departed consecrated his energies to a responsibility of such historic magnitude," said the Cardinal.
Shortly after the takeover of the US Embassy. the Pope gave Archbishop Bugnini a personal message for Khomeini. The Moslem leader answered by telling the Pope that he should censure the then US President, Jimmy Carter, whom he called "an enemy of the people and mankind."
Archbishop Bugnini visited the hostages on November 11, 1979 and saw some of them during the Easter and Christmas seasons in 1980.
In all the negotiations. Archbishop Bugnini was overshadowed by Melkite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci. then apostolic visitor to Melkite Catholics in Western Europe and a Syrian-born supporter of Khomeini's revolution. The Iranian government requested that Archbishop Capucci, who was once convicted in Israel of smuggling guns to Palestinian guerrillas, participate in talks involving the Catholic Church.