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Jenco Will Give Pope Message From Captors

July 29, 1986

ROME (AP) _ The Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, wearing a ″Free the Hostages″ pin on his lapel, said Tuesday he was given a message for Pope John Paul II by the Shiite Moslem extremists who held him captive for nearly 19 months.

Jenco, who was released last Saturday, was flown here in a U.S. Air Force jet from Frankfurt, West Germany, with 12 members of his family.

Reporters at Ciampino Airport asked whether the Roman Catholic priest, 51, would speak to the pope about the three other Americans held with him in Lebanon.

″I am sure that is one of the items I will speak to him about,″ he said. ″Before I left Lebanon ... my captors asked me to speak to him.″ Jenco, who has a history of heart problems, appeared weary and spoke in a soft voice.

He added that it would be up to the pope to decide whether to disclose the contents of the kidnappers’ message. U.S. Embassy officials said the priest was to have a private audience with John Paul at noon Wednesday.

″It’s just nice to be present in the Holy City,″ said Jenco, who was director of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon when he was kidnapped Jan. 8, 1985. The agency served both Christians and Moslems.

″I’m just very happy to be here,″ he said. ″I was ordained in Rome in 1959 and celebrated my 26th anniversary as a priest in captivity.″

Terry Waite, a special envoy of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, also was on the plane. Jenco is scheduled to fly to London on Wednesday evening to meet with the Anglican spiritual leader, who has sent Waite on several missions to Lebanon seeking the release of Western hostages.

On hand at Ciampino as a welcoming party were U.S. Ambassador Maxwell Rabb; the acting U.S. charge d’affaires to the Vatican, Peter Murphy, and the Rev. Michael Sincerny, head of the Servites of Maria religious order to which Jenco belongs.

Jenco, a native of Joliet, Ill., underwent two days of checkups at the U.S. military hospital in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, after his release from captivity.

In a 10-minute statement at U.S. Air Force’s Rhein-Main base before departing for Rome, Jenco addressed remarks to captors he knew as Haj, Said and Ahab.

″After going through hours of diverse physical examinations, your concern for my health was well founded,″ he said. ″Thanks again for that caring concern.″

The captors said they released Jenco because of his health.

Jenco spoke of his relief in delivering a videotape made by hostage David Jacobsen of Huntington Beach, Calif., to The Associated Press in Damascus, Syria.

″Haj, I clung to that video cassette and was able to give it to AP. As you know, I did not know its contents. ... I was greatly relieved to give it to AP and it was aired,″ he said.

Jacobson’s message said the Reagan administration to negotiate for the release of the remaining Americans or ″our release will be death.″

Jenco also thanked Said for ″last minute counsel″ before his release, and added: ″The small crucifix Ahab gave me was a great comfort during those final hours.″

Still addressing the captors, he said of the other three hostages: ″Please let them know I will be a personal letter to their loved ones. Since (neither) I nor Terry or David or Tom knew that I was to be released, I did not have chance to hug and kiss them and to bid them farewell.″

″I and my brothers in Lebanon know well the feeling of frustration,″ Jenco said.

Americans still missing are Terry A. Anderson, 38, of Lorain, Ohio, chief Middle East correspondent of The Associated Press; Jacobsen, 55, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut; Thomas Sutherland, 55, of Fort Collins, Colo., the university’s acting dean of agriculture; and William Buckley, 58, of Medford, Mass. a U.S. Embassy political officer.

Islamic Jihad, the extremist Shiite group that claimed responsibility for all the kidnappings, said Oct. 4 that Buckley was killed in retaliation for what it called U.S. involvement in an Israeli air strike on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia. Buckley’s body was not found.

Ten relatives arrived in West Germany on Monday to greet the priest. Two more arrived later to accompany him to Rome and London, and then back home.

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