Priest freed in Nigeria returns to Italy

An Italian missionary priest freed by hostage-takers in Nigeria Wednesday returned to Italy on Thursday.

Father Maurizio Pallù, a priest with the Rome diocese, touched down in his native Florence and was greeted with religious chants by friends and supporters.

Pallù reiterated that he wanted to return to Nigeria as soon as possible, saying “we will evangelise” the west African country.

“I hope I can get back there as soon as possible,” said Pallù.  A missionary friend of his told reporters: “he called his kidnappers brothers”.

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said via Twitter Wednesday that Pallù was at the Italian embassy in Abuja.  “His words were of joy, without resentment,” Alfano said.

Father Pallu’ told Vatican Radio Wednesday that “I had moments of fear but I have to say I felt very much the assistance of the saints, of the Virgin Mary, of Carmen Hernandez (founder of the Neocatecumenal Way).

“They took three of us hostage, a Nigerian brother, a Nigerian girl student, and me. They let us go at about 10 o’clock last night.

“I’ve been kidnapped twice in a year but I’m convinced that God will destroy the work of the Devil. Another important thing to stress is this: the two kidnappings took place on the feast of the Madonna of Fatima, October 13”.

Asked if he would be returning to Italy, he replied: “They have told me to come back to Italy. I’d like to stay here because you beat the Devil by being here.

“When they let me come back (to Nigeria) I’ll come back here very happily and I’ll offer my poor person for the evangelisation of Nigeria”.

Florence Mayor Diego Nardella called Pallu”s release “splendid news” while former Florence mayor, ex-premier and Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi echoed that sentiment, phoning Florence Archbishop Giuseppe Betori to send his best wishes.

Father Pallu’, 63 yesterday, was kidnapped at Benin City in southern Nigeria last week.  He phoned his mother Sunday night to tell her he was well and would be released “in a few days”, Vatican Insider reported Monday.

Laura Pallu’, 92, made the phone call public during a prayer vigil for her son’s release in the parish of Santa Lucia La Sala in northern Florence.

Rome prosecutors are investigating a suspected terror crime, judicial sources said. While Islamist terrorists Boko Haram were initially suspected, they have since been all but ruled out.
Sources said Florence-born Pallu’ was stopped with two other people on his way to Benin City.
They were stopped by an armed group that stole all their belongings and abducted the priest who has been on a mission to Nigeria for three years.
Pallu’ graduated in history before setting off as a lay missionary around the world, for 11 years.
In 1988, when his father died, he joined a Rome seminary and in 1991 was ordained as a priest.
Two years later, spent working as a chaplain, he was sent to the Netherlands.
The Rome diocese said it was praying for his liberation.
Florence Archbishop Betori said he was following the case with “apprehension” and urged people to pray for Father Pallu’.

Pope Francis also said he was praying for Pallu’.

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