Philippines: church groups pray for kidnapped priest

 The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) is engaged in a "prayer brigade" for the safety of kidnapped Italian missionary Giancarlo Bossi. Sr Estela Castalone, AMRSP executive secretary, said that the group launched the prayer brigade on June 10, the day Bossi, (57) of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), was kidnapped by armed men near his parish church in the coastal village of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay, southern Philippines. "And we have continuously prayed for the conversion of hearts of those responsible for [his] abduction," the nun said. Castalone said the AMRSP was "in solidarity with Fr Bossi as we share his prophetic call." The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' media office issued a statement yesterday expressing the same sentiments. Maj Gen Ben Mohammad Dolorfino, the military commander for Metro Manila. Said he believes the kidnappers are close to releasing Fr Bossi. According to the military, a 15-member armed group is believed to be holding him in the mountainous Mamagun area in Zamboanga Sibugay. Castalone praised the courage of foreign missionaries, adding that many of them had been ministering to residents of remote places in the archipelago and were often unconcerned about their safety. "They are sent to far-flung areas to proclaim Christ, whether they are accepted or not by their immediate communities," she said. There are 776 foreign priests and brothers and 899 nuns, mostly of Italian descent, assigned to various parts of the country, according to Castalone. Bossi is the third Italian missionary abducted in the Philippines since 1998. The first was Fr Luciano Benedetti, also of PIME, who was released after over two months in 1988 Fr Guiseppe Pierantoni of the Sacerdotes Cordis Jesu was abducted in 2001 and eventually escaped from his captors. Last April 1, Indonesian missionary Fransiskus Madhu of the Society of the Divine Word was killed by armed men while waiting to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass at a remote village in Kalinga province, northern Philippines.

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