Italian missionary priest abducted
An Italian priest of the Diocese of Rome who was working in Nigeria as a missionary was abducted last Thursday. Don Maurizio Pallù, 63, was heading to Benin City, in the south of the country, along with four other people. They were stopped by an armed group that stole their belongings and seized only the Italian missionary.
On Friday afternoon the papal spokesman, American Greg Burke, said on Twitter that Pope Francis has been informed of the kidnapping of Fr Maurizio and “is praying for him.” The Diocese of Rome expressed “apprehension and worry” for the priest’s safety and said the church “was united in prayer” for his liberation. “We hope that Maurizio Pallù can be released soon,” said the spokesperson for the Vicariate of Rome, Fr Walter Insero.
At the moment, no more information is available. No demand for ransom has been received.
Prosecutors are investigating the abduction as a terrorist act. Italian papers are reporting that Fr Maurizio might have been kidnapped by members of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. However, unlike the Muslim-majority north of the country, where Boko Haram threatens the Christian community, the southeast of Nigeria is predominantly Christian. However, armed gangs roam the region, which is plagued by government corruption and violence, and kidnappings for ransom are common
Fr Maurizio was born in Florence on 18 Oct 1954. In 1971 he became involved in the Neocatecumenal Way, studied history and was a lay missionary for 11 years. After his father’s death in 1988, he entered the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Rome. Following his ordination, he worked as a priest in two Rome parishes and then was sent to Holland, where he was a parish priest in Haarlem. Three years ago, he returned to Africa and worked in the Nigerian Archdiocese of Abuja. Fr Maurizio is an “itinerant priest” of the Nazareth Family Foundation for travelling evangelization but belongs to the Diocese of Rome.
Fr Maurizio is not the first priest to have been abducted this year on the outskirts of Benin City. On 18 April Father Samuel Okwuidegbe, a 50-year-old Nigerian Jesuit, was also abducted. On 3 Sep Fr Cyriacus Onunkwo was found murdered in the town of Orlu, which is in Imo state.