Niger: Cross removed from mission of kidnapped priest

The cross overlooking the village  image/SMA

The cross overlooking the village image/SMA

Source: Fides/SMA

The cross on a hill in the parish of Fr Pierluigi Maccalli, the Society of African Missionary who was kidnapped 18 months ago, has been removed. The iron cross was installed in 1995, the year of the creation of the parish. This is the same place where Fr Pierluigi Maccalli was kidnapped in September 2018.

Fr Mauro Armanino, Fr Macalli's confrere, said: "They went on pilgrimage on the hill to ask for rain in the hard times of the drought season. It rained heavily every time, before the prayer even ended.

"Even the Muslims of the village used to invite Christians, to go to the hill of the cross a couple of miles from the village. The cross, could be seen from the village, up to two weeks ago."

Fr Armanino said: "On Friday, May 15 unknown men climbed on the hill and tore down the cross, solidly screwed to the concrete with rust-proof bolts. They eliminated the cross from its place and then placed it on a stone not far away… It is believed that it was carried out by those whom the press and people call the 'jihadists', armed and sometimes hooded, who terrify Christians and the people of the villages in the region."

He said that at the beginning of the month a group had come to the village and warned the village chief not to report them to the government forces. They were also told not to cut trees, to avoid alcohol and above all refuse everything that is not Islam."

Fr Armanino said locals were afraid of the militants. Christians no longer meet in the church but pray in their houses.

But he added: "The farmers are patient and know well that the cross is written on the earth and no one will be able to take it away anymore."

In April, a short video was released to local media, showing Father Pierluigi Maccalli and another kidnapped person Italian tourist Nicola Ciacco, dated 24 March 2020. See: , This was the first news of him since he was kidnapped. His family, conferes and parishioners are praying for his safe return.

Tags: Father Pierluigi Maccalli, Fr Mauro Armanino, Kidnap, Niger, Society of African Missionaries

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