June 22, 1999
The Honorable Robert A. Underwood
Member of Congress
2418 Rayburn House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Underwood,I write to express the support of the U.S. Catholic Conference for the efforts you and other Members of Congress have been making to secure a just and equitable resolution of the controverted issue of the Bells of Balangiga.
These two church bells, seized as war booty in 1901 by the U.S. troops in the Philippines and presently enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, have taken on 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. 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.
With thanks for your good work in this matter, I am
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference