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Italian priest, released by kidnappers, heads home

.- Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, the Italian priest held captive by the extremist Abu Sayyaf group for 39 days, was sent to Rome by his superiors on Saturday because of increased violence in the region he was assigned to.

He was accompanied by Fr. Gian Battista Zanchi, the superior general of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, to which Fr. Bossi belongs.

Prior to his departure, the 57-year-old missionary told the Filipino bishops’ CBCP News that he’s happy he’s leaving the country to meet his mother and brother and sister “but sad because he’s going home because I got kidnapped.”

Fr. Bossi was expected to have a two-day visit with his brother and sister in Rome before heading to his hometown of Abbiategrasso near Milan to visit with his elderly mother.

He is expected to spend some time resting with his family in the mountains before his Sept. 1 meeting with Pope Benedict in Loreto, which is also the occasion for a youth gathering.

Fr. Bossi told CBCP News he intends to share his experience with the Pope and ask the pontiff to remember those in the missions who work with dedication and in a hidden way.

The priest said he will return to the Philippines immediately before or after Christmas this year and would prefer to return to his parish in Payao, but he recognizes the decision remains with his superiors.

Fr. Zanchi, however, told the Inquirer that if Fr. Bossi returns to the Philippines, he would not be assigned to Payao, the location where he was kidnapped.

Asked if he had a message for his abductors, Fr. Bossi said: “It’s very easy. I will pray for them, as I still pray for them. I told them my prayer is, in a way, for them to change their heart and one day for them to go home to sit around the table with their family and have dinner together.”

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