Anglican Archbishop Prays for Waite’s Release
The Archbishop of Canterbury prayed Friday for the safe release of his envoy, Terry Waite, whose fate remains a mystery two years after he left his Lebanon hotel to negotiate the release of foreign hostages.
“To observe a second anniversary is a disappointment, but we remain ever hopeful of his return,” the Church of England’s spiritual leader, Robert A. K. Runcie, said in a nationally broadcast sermon from a London church.
He also prayed for the release of all others “unjustly imprisoned” in Lebanon, where 15 other foreigners are also held hostage, including nine Americans.
David Waite expressed optimism that his brother will be freed and said he is satisfied with official efforts to gain Waite’s release.
‘We Are Still Optimistic’
“We are still optimistic,” he said. “We believe Terry will be back with us again before the next year goes by.”
Waite, 49, the policeman’s son who became the personal emissary of Runcie, was last seen leaving the Riviera Hotel in Muslim West Beirut on Jan. 20, 1987, to meet with Shiite Muslim kidnapers.
He told his Druze bodyguards that he did not want them to escort him to the clandestine meeting.
Sources said Waite was driven to the home of a Shiite physician, where he apparently was to make contact with Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War), a Shiite faction holding American hostages.
According to the sources, it was there that the fate Waite often feared became reality: He was taken hostage.
No group has claimed to hold Waite or two other British hostages, TV cameraman John McCarthy and teacher Brian Keenan, and no photographs or videotapes have been released to prove they are alive.
Britain’s ambassador in Beirut, Allan Ramsay, said the men are probably being held in “deplorable conditions, deprived of freedom and most human contact.”
“There is nothing to suggest they are not alive,” he was quoted as saying by Britain’s domestic news agency, Press Association.
Hostages freed since Waite vanished have reported seeing a man in an underground prison they believed was the 6-foot-7 Waite.
New rumors about Waite crop up almost every week: He was killed trying to escape Shiite Muslim extremists who held him; he was smuggled to Iran in a coffin to stand trial as an American spy; he will be ransomed for $7 million.
John Lyttle, the archbishop’s public affairs secretary, was quoted Thursday as saying that Waite “was wrong” to undertake a fifth mission to Beirut. Lyttle is leading the church’s effort to free Waite.
‘Brought Hope to Others’
Runcie also had expressed concern to Waite about his decision to travel to Beirut “but was convinced by his determination to go,” church spokeswoman Eve Keatley said Friday.
“Terry brought hope to others in captivity,” Runcie said during the sermon. “Let us trust that he, with all others held hostage, may be sustained by the prayers constantly offered not only at Lambeth Palace but in countless churches and homes.”
Lambeth Palace is the archbishop’s official residence. Prayer services also were being held for Waite in dozens of parishes throughout Britain.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s leftist daily newspaper As Safir reported Friday that four hostages in Lebanon have been moved from a jail near Beirut to a new location.
The paper, which is close to the Syrian army command in Lebanon, gave no further details in its unattributed report.