Kidnapped twice, missionary priest returns to Nigeria

Priest collar Credit alphaspirit via wwwshutterstockcom EWTN alphaspirit/Shutterstock.

After he was kidnapped in Nigeria in October, Italian missionary priest Fr. Maurizio Pallù has returned to the country, attributing his kidnapping to the work of the devil and crediting the Virgin Mary with his protection and release.

"I saw a special maternal intervention of the Virgin Mary, especially Our Lady of Fatima," he told EWTN, "because the way that she undid the plans of the devil is very evident."

Pallù, 63, is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has served as a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He and two companions were kidnapped in southern Nigeria Oct. 12.

According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of armed criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car. The three were released Oct. 17.

He was also kidnapped on Oct. 13, 2016 and released after just an hour and a half.

At the time of his kidnapping, Pallù said he thought about his life and he felt he was not ready to die. "I said to the Lord: I see that I don't have enough repentance for my sins."

"If you want me to die, give me the grace and the Holy Spirit to die as a real Christian and offer my life for these people who killed me," he recounted, though he asked God to "save my life and I promise that I will continue to announce the Gospel with redoubled zeal."

Pallù, a priest of the Diocese of Rome, has been in Italy since Oct. 18. During this time, he also had an audience with Pope Francis, who asked him, "when are you going back?"

Asked about returning to the country, and whether it was foolish idea, Pallù said he is not afraid of the devil, who has already been defeated "by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

"In Nigeria, now is the favorable moment," the priest said, commenting on how the devil must be very afraid of losing souls to God if he has attacked them twice now through kidnappings. "I want to quote the words of the prophet and of the saint, John Paul II, who said Africa is the future of the Church," he said.

In the whole situation he was able to witness the power of prayer, he said, explaining that the only instrument he had with him during his five of days in captivity was a rosary he had bought in Fatima, since his kidnappers had taken his golden cross, and he didn't have a Bible or breviary with him.

"I had this rosary, and they saw me constantly praying the rosary because I kept it out. I told them, 'I pray for you as well,' so I saw the power, not only of my prayer – because I am a man with a little faith, I did what I could – but especially of the prayer of the universal Church."

He said he was also able to start a relationship with the leader of the group that had kidnapped them. Of the eight men, he was the only one who spoke English.

"And so we could speak together, and what I could tell him is that I consider them my brothers, (that) I was praying for them… What I noticed is that he changed (his) tone and approach. He said, as I told him 'I'm praying for you,' he said, 'Yes Father, pray for me,'" in an authentic voice.

Fr. Pallù is a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to the Netherlands, where he was a pastor in the Diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.

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