Vatican City, Apr 5, 2014 / 10:39 am
Pope Francis is remembering in his prayers two Italian priests and a Canadian religious sister who were kidnapped in Cameroon Friday night.
Vatican Radio reports that Pope Francis "hopes for a rapid and positive solution to the affair." He "remains in constant contact with the nunciature."
The two priests and religious sister were kidnapped by armed persons around midnight on April 4. The identity of the kidnappers is unknown at this time, although the Islamic militia Boko Haram has been known to operate in the area, Reuters reports.
Fathers Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri are priests of northeastern Italy's Diocese of Vicenza. They work as missionaries in the Diocese of Maroua in the north of Cameroon, along with Sister Gilberte Bissiere. They were helping improve water supplies and combat the spread of HIV / AIDS.
During Lent, the priests' religious activities included the preparation of catechumens and children for baptism during the Easter vigil.
In a March 12 letter posted on the Vicenza diocese's missions website, Fr. Allegri described the political situation. He wrote "the situation of insecurity in the territory has not changed: even if outwardly here one does not perceive (it to be) particularly alarming, it is palpable in our feelings and in our conversations."
"We know that on the border with Nigeria, the police and the military are committed to ensuring that there are no leaks," his letter continued, adding that the regional governor has asked that Europeans moving in groups should have a police escort.
"However, rest assured, we are calm and confident in the Father whom we preach, merciful and great in love," the priest said.
According to a statement from the Diocese of Vicenza, "the situation is a source of great concern for the whole diocesan community." At the recommendation of the ministry of foreign affairs, the diocese said, it is not issuing specific statements "in order to avoid complicating an already extremely delicate situation."
Vicenza's Bishop Beniamino Pizziol had visited the missionaries in Cameroon in January. He said he will hold a prayer vigil for them Saturday evening.