ARCHBISHOP Hilarion Capucci, the Vatican's unofficial mediator in Iran. is involved in a fresh initiative aimed at securing the release of Anglican church workers held there on charges of spying.
He was expected to come to England this week on what he described as "a personal humanitarian mission of which the Holy See is aware." But it was not clear what form the mission might take. Anglican church authorities in London confirmed this week that they were fully aware of the possibility of such a visit. But they said they could not say any more than that because no plans had been finalised.
Six Anglicans are known to he detained in Iran at the moment, Three are from Britain: Miss Jean Waddell, secretary to Bishop Dehqani-Tafti, Dr John Coleman and his wife Audrey, the others are Iranians: the diocesan administrator, Dimitri Bellos, and two priests.
Bishop Dehttani-Tafti left Iran last autumn after an attempt on his life and has been unable to return since; his son was subsequently murdered by Islamic extremists.
Archbishop Capucci announced his intention to come to England after a private audience with Pope John Paul in Rome last week. The Vatican said the meeting had taken place but gave no details. However, the Archbishop said that he had given the Pope a letter from Iranian President Abolhassan B a n i-Sad r.
He said his visit had been aimed at resolving problems affecting Catholic schools and foreign missionaries. The Iranian authorities had agreed to allow 40 Christian. schools to continue functioning. Seven of those were Catholic schools, but seven other Catholic educational institutions would remain closed, he said.
Archbishop Capucci said the ownership of Christian schools, previously nationalised by the government, would remain with the Christians operating them, who would rent the buildings from the Iranians for a "symbolic price."
Christians and Muslims would be allowed to attend the Christian schools in the only exception to .a February 1980 law banning Muslims from attending schools. operated by other religions. But regarding Catholic missionaries, the Iranian authorities agreed that a total of 160 priests and Religious would be permitted to operate freely in the country, Archbishop Capucci said. He added that many missionaries expelled from Iran would be returning soon.