.- Two Italian Catholic sisters who were kidnapped nearly four months ago in northern Kenya were released by their captors today, the Foreign Ministry of Italy said.
Sister Caterina Giraudo, 67, and Sister Maria Teresa Oliviero, 61, are both members of the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Fr. Charles de Foucauld and had been working for the Somali refugee population in Kenya when they were kidnapped.
Shortly after their release in Somalia, they were taken to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, where they told the Italian public television (RAI), that they are fine. "Today we have risen," said Sister Giraudo.
The Director of the Holy Seeâs press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, relayed that the Pope expressed his "great joy" upon hearing about the sistersâ release. Pope Benedict had personally appealed for the release of the two sisters in late November.
"If on the one hand, we are delighted by the news of the release, on the other hand, we say it is the dramatic use of kidnapping," which is "an unacceptable form of violence," said the Jesuit priest.
The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also welcomed the release of the sisters, saying he had "closely followed the issue."
"The two are well and are at our embassy in Nairobi," Berlusconi confirmed.
Sister Maria Teresa Olivero and Sister Caterina Giraudo were abducted at night by a group of armed men on November 9 in the small town of El Wak on the Somali border. The sisters had been providing medical and nutritional care to malnourished children, expectant mothers and the elderly.