An Italian priest missing in Africa for two years has been released by kidnappers.
Fr. Pierluigi Macalli was released Thursday in Mali along with three others being held captive: a French humanitarian worker, an Italian tourist and a politician from Mali.
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, tweeted that the four had been “kidnapped by a jihadist group,” reported Catholic News Service.
Fr. Maccalli, a 59-year-old from Crema, Italy, was a member of the Society of African Missions. He was abducted from his parish in southern Niger the night of September 17-18, 2017.
Fr. Antonio Porcellato, superior general of the Society of African Missions, said in a statement that the society continues to pray for other hostages who are still in captivity. “We pray for the numerous victims of this blind violence that is hitting hard the Sahel, especially those who were attacked in Burkina Faso recently,” he said.
But the society, in its statement, expressed joy that Fr. Maccalli was free and offered encouragement to others: “God does answer our prayers,” it said. “Never give up!”
Two bishops took note of the timing of the release, coming just before World Mission Sunday, October 18. Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said the release “is a great sign of hope for us, for Africa and for the universal Church.”
“It is a sign and vibrant witness that the grace of Christ works and restores hope in situations marked by violence, conflict and pandemic,” said Archbishop Rugambwa. “The release shows us that the grace of Christ is stronger than any difficulty and that we always must trust in him.”
And Bishop Daniele Gianotti of Crema said, “I want to read his liberation as a sign of trust and encouragement for all those men and women who witness to the Gospel of Jesus in the most exposed and difficult situations.”
Using the priest’s nickname, Bishop Gianotti said, “I hope the liberation of Father Gigi would be a promising sign of hope for all those others who are prisoners because of their faith and their struggle for truth, justice and reconciliation and that it would be a seed of peace and trust for Niger, which he loves so much, for the Sahel and for all of Africa.”