Benin City, Nigeria: An Italian national, a Roman Catholic priest was abducted by an armed group while he was with four other people in Benin City, Nigeria on Thursday. Don Maurizio Pallù, linked to the Neocatechumenal Way, was for three years in mission in the West African country.
The abductors would abduct the priest after robbing the group. This leaves open the hypothesis that it may be a band of common delinquents, quite common in that area of the country, who might be going to seek a ransom.
Archbishop of Abuja, Capital of Nigeria, Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan said:
“For now we have no good news but we trust and continue to hope that soon Don Maurizio will be released. Law enforcement are doing everything to trace it. The abductors will soon have to release it because it is not easy to bring an Italian in the woods without being seen. We also mobilized and employed all possible forces. We must continue to pray for it will be released sooner or later. ”
“I talked to Archbishop of Don Maurizio,” he added. Onaiyekan – because he is here with me along with other Nigeria bishops to celebrate the feast of the Marian year that ends today. The Archbishop is also waiting for good news. With Don Maurizio Pallù there were sters but only other passengers.”
“Pope Francis was informed of the Italian priest abducted in Nigeria, Fr Maurizio Pallù, and is praying for him.” The Director of the Vatican Press Room, Greg Burke, reports on Twitter.
Even in the diocese of Rome , the story has generated a lot of anxiety. “Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, Vicar of the Pope for the Diocese of Rome, was warned of the abducting of the priest of the diocese of Rome on mission in southern Nigeria. He lives with the whole Church of Rome with an apprehension, hoping and praying, above all, that his son will soon be able to return freely and be re-enacted and rejoined by his mother Church, “says Sir Walter Insero, Office for Social Communications of the Vicariate of Rome. There is apprehension and concern – adds Don Insero – but at the same time the Church joins in prayer, praying for him and for his release . ”
“I am upset and worried by this vile act , which goes to strike an announcer of the Gospel and a peace actor. Prayer is the strongest weapon we have at this time, to be close to this brother and ask him to readily return to the freedom of which he was unfairly deprived. ” Cardinale Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference .
“As we celebrate missionary October and Brescia , these first days are the first National Festival dedicated to the mission – the Cardinal notes – as this reminds us of how the testimony offered firsthand remains the first form of mission. I think with the utmost pride and gratitude to the many men and women who have departed from our ecclesial communities to share the hope of the Lord with every man. In this circumstance I make myself an interpreter of the entire Italian Church, concluding in expressing our solidarity, our prayer and our willingness to leave us questioned by these vintages donated in the periphery of the world. ”
The Farnesian Crisis Unit is at work, while the prosecutor of Rome has opened a file coordinated by Sergio Colaiocco.
Don Maurizio is 63 years old , originally from Florence, where he joined the Neocatechumenal Way. He has been a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries around the world. Then in 1988 he entered the seminary at Redemptoris Mater in Rome. After having worked as a chaplain in two Roman parishes he was sent to Holland, where he became parish priest in the diocese of Haarlem. He was the transferred to Africa, where he went to work in the Archdiocese of Abuja, Nigeria. He is an “itinerant priest” of the Nazareth Family Foundation for itinerant evangelization.
The state of Edo, of which Benin City is the capital, is an area of high risk abductings. On September 27th Don Lawrence Adorolo, parish priest of the church of San Benedetto in Okpella, was also abducted. Monsignor Gabriel Dunia, bishop of Auchi, condemning the abduction of the priest, called it an “abominable act”, revealed that “the abductors have made themselves available for a ransom from the Church.” But “the Church does not pay redemption,” the bishop said, confirming the line adopted by the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference for a long time to reject any request for ransom by the seizure of priests and religious. These are not religious-related activities, but are often carried out by common crime groups.
In the days before this episode, armed men also abducted Benin City’s director of the Ogba Wildlife Park, with grevious harm to three policemen.
According to the state news media, three other priests were abducted this year in southern Nigeria.
Father Samuel Okwuidegbe, Jesuit , had been taken from strangers on April 18 on the road connecting Benin City to Onitsha and then released on April 22nd.
On June 18, a police blitz freed father Charles Nwachukwu of the Okigwe diocese in the state of Imo (in south-east Nigeria). Father Charles Nwachukwuhad been abducted by five armed men on June 16.
The most dramatic episode is the one that happened on September 1st with the abduction and killing of Father Cyriacus Onunkwo in the State of Imo. His body was found the next day near the village of Omuma.
For more than two years there has been no news of Father Gabriel Oyaka of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, abducted on 7 September 2015.