Italy’s foreign minister says an Italian priest kidnapped last week in Nigeria has been freed and is in good shape.
The Rev. Maurizio Pallu was released late Tuesday, five days after being kidnapped in Benin City. Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told journalists on Wednesday that the priest was returning to the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where he has been working for the last three years.
In an interview on Vatican radio, Pallu said he was kidnapped with two Nigerians and all three were released together.
“I’m fine, very happy!” Pallù told Vatican Radio on Wednesday, the day of his 63rd birthday.
“The Lord has risen, he’s accompanied me, I’ve had moments of fear but I have to say that I really felt the help of the saints, the Virgin Mary, [and] of Carmen Hernandez [co-founder of the Neocatecumenal Way].”
The priest said that this is the second time he’s been kidnapped in the past year, but this experience was harder than the first one: “I have seen the great miracles the Lord has performed to keep us alive,” he said.
His liberation, Pallù said, “means that the Lord has a great plan for this country, because the devil is attacking it with great force to destroy God’s work in this nation.”
Both times he was kidnapped, Pallù noted in the interview, fell on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, October 13. The first time, “thanks to a miracle of the Madonna,” he said, he and his companions were released in less than two hours. This time they were taken on the eve of the feast, and kept for five days.
“As a matter of fact, I was going to Benin City where the Nigerian bishops celebrated the re-consecration of Nigeria to the Virgin Mary, and I wanted to be there on Oct. 13 for this great Eucharist,” he said. “Instead, I spent Oct. 13 in the forest and I received a sign of the maternal attention of Mary.”
There were no immediate details on the identity of the captors or the circumstances of the release.