20-day saga ends as bandits set priests, nuns, lay people free.
The remaining hostages kidnapped in Haiti April 11, including priests, have been released. All the hostages are reported to be safe and sound.
Bandits originally nabbed five priests, two religious sisters, and three lay persons outside the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, as they were traveling to the installation of a new parish priest. One lay person was released for health reasons April 19. It was reported several days later that three of the five priests were released April 23.
The remaining members of the group were set free Friday.
“Our first words go to the place of our freed brothers and sisters, to express our joy and our great satisfaction to find them safe and sound,” said Fr. Georgino Rameau, secretary general of the Society of Priests of St. Jacques, in an April 30 statement. “A big thank you for their confidence in God, in their Church, in our Institute and in the victory of good over evil.”
Several members of the society were among those kidnapped.
“We are also inhabited by a feeling of immense gratitude towards God and towards all the people and institutions which got involved with us in the process which culminated this morning in the release of our confreres and our friends, for which we fought body and soul,” Fr. Rameau continued in his statement. He thanked Archbishop Max Leroy Mésidor of Port-au-Prince; the Conference of Bishops of Haiti; the Haitian Conference of Religious, and the French Embassy. Two of the hostages were French nationals.
Fr. Jean-Marie Rosemond Joseph, regional superior of the Fathers of Saint Jacques in Haiti, in a note sent to Fides, information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, also thanked the ambassadors of France and the United States, “for their discreet and efficient diplomatic support, as well as to all the political and moral authorities of the country as well as the governments for their unwavering support.”
Fr. Rameau concluded his statement saying, “We will continue to pray for all those still kidnapped and support all efforts being made to secure their release. But even more, we join in any good and fair initiative aiming to restore in Haiti a climate of peace and serenity.”
Archbishop Mésidor also welcomed the release of the hostages, but noted that “our contentment will be greater when we see that we live in a country where kidnappings do not exist. Our contentment will be greater when we live in a country where everyone can move where they want, when they want in respect for the law.”
On April 14, the Haitian Bishops’ Conference had asked Catholic schools, universities and institutions to join a day of total closure to “protest” against kidnappings and insecurity in the country, repeating the protest April 21-23.
Responsibility for the kidnapping was claimed by a local criminal gang, which demanded $1 million in ransom and threatened to starve them to death. The statement from the Society of Priests of St. Jacques did not indicate if any of the kidnappers’ ransom demands were met. Neither the society nor the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince responded to a query from Aleteia.