WASHINGTON (June 22, 1999) -- Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, United States Catholic Conference, expressed support for efforts in Congress to secure a just and equitable resolution of the controversy surrounding the historic Philippine church bells known as the Bells of Balangiga.
In a June 22 letter to Representative Robert A. Underwood (D-Guam), Archbishop McCarrick expressed gratitude for the efforts which Rep. Underwood and other members of Congress have undertaken in this regard.
The Archbishop noted that the two church bells, seized as war booty in 1901 by U.S. troops in the Philippines and presently enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, have special meaning both for the people of the Philippines, who seek their return, as well as those in this country for whom they are sacred to the memory of the troops who died in Samar nearly a century ago.
"Whatever use the bells were put to during the war in the Philippines, serving to alert the Filipino fighters of approaching American military, the fact remains that they were an integral part of the Catholic church in that area and can properly still be considered church property," Archbishop McCarrick wrote. "Sensitive to concerns on both sides, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines today have expressed their support for a compromise solution, one which would allow one of the bells and a true cast of the other to be returned, with an identical arrangement for Warren AFB.
"I believe this is also what you and others in the Congress are seeking and I write to express our support for that position," Archbishop McCarrick said.