06/10/2007, 00.00

Fr. Bossi, “gentle giant” of the mission in Mindanao

Fr. Gianni Sandalo, superior of the mission of PIME in the Philippines, describes the personality of the missionary that was kidnapped and underlines how he was loved and respected by the local people. He had not received any threats and was peacefully going about his work. MILF has denied any involvement in this case.
Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – Fr. Giancarlo Bossi “had not received any threats of any type.  He was loved by the Filippino people and, as he himself said about a month ago, he was peacefully going about his work in Payao.” This is what Fr. Gianni Sandalo, superior of the mission of PIME in the Philippines told Asia News. 
Fr. Sandalo is presently in Zamboanga, in the south archipelago of Mindanao, where the kidnapping took place. “This incident is very strange. Now we can only wait and see what the kidnappers of Fr. Bossi will do. At any rate, the area where he has been working has been peaceful for a long time, except the presence of some pirates.” These latter “usually operate only on the water, assaulting the boats of the fishermen, from whom they rob money and materials. They do not operate on land.”
The missionary who was kidnapped, the superior explained, “was well loved. Here they call him ‘the gentle giant’ because he is peaceful, quiet, sticking to the essentials. He talks little but is a hard worker: he has always joined manual work with his spiritual life. One of his dreams has been to live in a village as a witness to the radical newness of the Gospel: he wanted to live as a farmer.”
He is a man, Fr. Sandalo continued, “who has always expressed a deep solidarity with the poor. When he was asked, this past February, to return to Payao, where he had already worked for three years during his early years in the mission of the Philippines, he gave up what he had dreamed of doing in order to resume his work with the poor.”
This past May, before leaving for the General Assembly of PIME, Fr. Sandalo went to visit Fr. Bossi in Payao. “I stayed with him for two days. He was very happy with the work that he was doing with the people. Fr. Bossi is a person who knows how to make himself appreciated by people. For example, when the parish secretary called me this morning to say that he had been kidnapped, she was very worried about him, wondering how he would be treated. Fr. Bossi has the capacity for establishing deep ties with people.”
The kidnapping, therefore, is not the work of personal enemies. “There were no threats against him. He himself told me a month ago that everything was calm, that he felt safe and sound. The only worry is that pirates are also operating in that area, although the pirates generally do not operate on land but only on the water. He had never received any indication of danger.”
Meanwhile, the guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which the army blamed for the kidnapping, stated that they had nothing to do with it. Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the group, denied any involvement on the part of the MILF. He emphasized that the kidnappers “do not belong to the MILF. We are ready to offer our complete assistance to the Filipino authorities.” 
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See also
Westerners abducted in southern Philippines (an overview)
Mindanao: Father Bossi well according to first contacts
PIME missionary, Fr Giancarlo Bossi, abducted in Mindanao
First photos of Fr Bossi show he is alive
PIME fathers appeal for Fr. Bossi release