.- The Italian missionary priest, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped this past June 10th was is now a free man. Pope Benedict XVI, who has been following the situation closely and has been praying for his release every day, has said he is filled with joy to hear of Fr. Bossi’s release.
Father Bossi was recovered by police in the southern Filipino town of Karumatan yesterday, after having been held captive for 40 days by followers of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Throughout the ordeal, the identity of the organization responsible for his kidnapping was uncertain, with some saying that the Islamic separatist group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was responsible and others claiming that it was Abu Sayyaf. Fr. Bossi put the guesswork to rest, saying, "From the beginning, they told me they were Abu Sayyaf.”
According to Fr. Bossi, the motive behind his kidnapping was purely, “to have some ransom.” Rumors had circulated that money changed hands to secure his release, but the Filipino Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who was with Bossi at the news conference, said that demands for ransom were ignored. The International Herald Tribune reported that the ransom demanded for his release was $1 million.
Although he lost weight due to the diet of rice and dried fish he subsisted on for over a month, Bossi said he was otherwise unharmed.
If anything good came out of the ordeal, he joked at a press conference, it was that he had to stop smoking. A self-professed chain smoker, Fr. Bossi recounted how one night when he was trying to climb a mountain with his captors, he said to himself, "…if I want to survive, I have to keep my breathing. Better stop smoking - and I stopped smoking."
Reaction to the safe return of Fr. Bossi continues to come in from all corners of the world. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, conveyed that his being freed, "brings great joy to the entire Church and also for the Holy Father." The Italian and Filipino Bishops Conferences have also responded with joy to the news.
When Fr. Bossi was asked what he would like to do now that he is free he replied that if his superiors let him, he would go back to Payao, a fishing town in Zamboanga Sibugay where he has been ministering. "I have to go back to Payao," he said. "My heart is still in Payao…. They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”