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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Runcie and the hostage crisis
Terry Waite returns home
Terry Waite: Dr Runcie tried to dissuade him from going
When Terry Waite announced he intended to go to Beirut to negotiate the release of five hostages, Robert Runcie was worried.

The Archbishop of Canterbury tried to persuade Mr Waite, his secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs, not to go.

"I was always dubious about an operation over which I had so little control," he said.


I warned him, but he was determined to finish the job

Lord Runcie
But Mr Waite was not to be dissuaded.

He was taken hostage in Beirut on 20 January, 1987.

He had been invited to Lebanon by the American Episcopal Church to try to negotiate the release of two American and three French citizens being held hostage in the Lebanese capital.

He was last seen leaving his hotel with his Druze bodyguards on his way to a meeting with the representatives of Islamic Jihad, who were believed to be holding the hostages.

Mr Waite was held hostage for a total of 1,763 days - until 18 November, 1991.

Prayer vigil

During that time Dr Runcie prayed for him every day before a candle in the medieval crypt of Lambeth Palace.

The Archbishop always remained optimistic about Mr Waite's survival, despite regular reports that he had died or been killed.

But Dr Runcie had almost ordered Mr Waite not to embark on his dangerous mission.

"Our church members in that part of the world wondered what Terry was doing," Dr Runcie later said.

Robert Runcie
Robert Runcie: Prayed for Waite every day he was held hostage
"I warned him, but he was determined to finish the job."

Dr Runcie was concerned about Mr Waite's publicity drive

"Terry always felt that he needed to get publicity in order that the captors should take him seriously," he said.

"Publicity was not his object, rather a method for a particular end.

"But, of course, publicity had its dangerous side too, since he became not just someone with profile but someone of value to any kidnapper."

By the time Mr Waite was released, Dr Runcie was no longer Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was delighted at the news that Mr Waite had been freed.


He was exceptionally kind and supportive to my family during that time

Terry Waite
But he said that delight was tempered by the thought that other hostages still remained captive in Beirut.

Speaking following Lord Runcie's death, Mr Waite said he had always been grateful to him for praying for him while he remained in chains.

"He was exceptionally kind and supportive to my family during that time, though of course I did not know anything about it until my release," he said

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12 Jul 00 | UK
The reformist archbishop
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