Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – The Philippine authorities have blocked an entire areas of the Mindanao island chain: road and naval blockades have been put in place to prevent Fr. Giancarlo Bossi’s kidnappers escape”.
Fr Gianni Sandalo, regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in the Philippines tells AsiaNews adding: “The identity of the kidnappers is still unknown: they have neither made contact nor demanded a ransom. We are waiting, we are trying as a Church to mediate, and we are praying for the live of our brother priest. We decided yesterday that the administrator for Ipil apostolic prelature Fr. Nador Jasulga, will be in charge of any eventual contact with the kidnappers”.
The decision was made yesterday in the course of a meeting in Ipil between the government, the army and some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which Fr. Sandalo also attended. The two men will make their way to Payao next week, the parish from where Fr. Bossi was taken on June 10th, in search of any useful information regarding his kidnap.
Fr. Sandalo underlines that the public’s criticism of the governments’ handling of the case is unfounded: “They are doing all in their power for Fr Bossi. I saw the soldiers return after a day long search in the mountains and they were totally destroyed. If they are not using better equipment it does not mean they are disinterested, it means they simply don’t have them”.
In the meantime, the Payao community “is animated each day by prayer meetings and moments of unity between Christians and Muslims. It is wonderful that a priest together with a group of seminarians has moved into the area, since Fr. Bossi’s kidnap, to keep the community alive and in prayer”.
During those meetings the faithful ask why their parish priest was kidnapped: “It’s very moving – says Fr. Sandalo – to listen to them while they pray for the return of their “gentle giant”, as they called Fr. Bossi”. Equally moving was a meeting between the superior and a local police official who was good friends with the kidnapped missionary, who expressed his sorrow at not having been able to save him: “He was in great pain, as if it had been his fault”.
Yet, continues Fr. Sandalo, “these are risks which every missionary runs in carrying out his mission”. Those who bring the Gospel must not be exploited: we trust in the Philippine governments efforts and also in those of the Italian government, who right from the start of the crises activated a special unit from the Farnesina (Italian Foreign Ministry) overlooking developments”.
The entire Philippine Church is following the situation with great concern: the superiors of the male and female religious Institutions yesterday launched a prayer campaign for the missionary’s release. The executive secretary of the group which unites the Institutes, Sister Estela Castalone, says: “We pray ceaselessly for conversion of the hearts of his kidnappers”.
The group earnestly hopes for the release of Fr. Bossi, and firmly rejects the public’s accusations of “disinterest” towards those who work in dangerous areas of the country. Missionaries, concludes the Sister, “cannot just go to areas considered safe. They have a missionary mandate, and are invited to proclaim Christ to all peoples in all places”.
Finally, yesterday during his audience in St Peter’s square, Fr. Giuseppe Buono PIME succeeded in speaking to the Pope and to ask for a special blessing for Fr.Giancarlo. The Holy Father assured: “Not just a blessing, but a constant place in my prayers”.