Saturday, January 16, 2010

Freed Irish missioner returns to the Philippines

Irish Catholic priest Michael Sinnott is escorted by soldiers on his way to a waiting plane that will take him to Manila after his release in Zamboanga City in Mindanao in November 12, 2009. Sinnott returned Friday, January 15, 2010 to the Philippines to resume his missionary work. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 16, 2010) – An elderly Irish Catholic priest kidnapped by Moro rebels in the Philippines has returned to the country to continue his missionary work.

The 80-year Michael Sinnot arrived late Friday in Manila after a two-month vacation in Ireland following his release in November in Zamboanga City, said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“It’s very nice to be back and am looking forward to going back to my work in Pagadian,” Sinnot said.

Sinnott was taken by six gunmen on October 11 from his Columban missionary house in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province and brought to Lanao province. The kidnappers originally demanded $2 million for the release of the missionary, but Manila said no ransom was paid and that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front helped secure Sinnott’s freedom.

“I was amazed when I came out of here there were a lot of people who prayed for me and I would like to thank them very, very sincerely from the bottom of my heart,” he said, adding, he would “like to do the little bit I can for as long as I can.”

Shortly after he was freed, Sinnott, who belongs to the Missionary Society of St. Columban, spoke with reporters at a Philippine Air Force base in Zamboanga City and told them his ordeal during his captivity. He said he was treated well by his captors, whom he identified as members of a “lost command” headed by Kikay. The priest said his captors told him that he was kidnapped because of ransom.

Sinnott was the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Father Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Father Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in the volatile region.

In June 2007, gunmen also kidnapped an Italian missioner Giancarlo Bossi, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, in Payao town in Zamboanga del Sur province. Bossi, then 57, was freed more than a month later after private negotiators paid a huge ransom. Bossi’s kidnappers had demanded P50 million for his safe release.

Philippine authorities said Bossi was kidnapped while celebrating mass in the village of Bulawan by brothers Akiddin and Wanning Abdusallam, both rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf. Bossi was the third Italian priest kidnapped in southern Philippines decade.

Moro rebels kidnapped Fr Luciano Benedetti, 62, in Zamboanga del Norte province in 1998 and held for nearly 10 weeks until he was freed in exchange for a huge government ransom.

In 2001, renegade MILF rebels and members of the bandit group called Pentagon Gang also snatched Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni as the 51-year-old from Bologna said mass in the parish church of Dimataling town in Zamboanga del Sur.
The priest was freed after six months in captivity in exchange for an unspecified ransom, but he claimed to have escaped from his kidnappers. (Mindanao Examiner)

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