Saturday 25 March 2017

Missionary returns to work after kidnapping

Ciaran Byrne

FREED Irish priest Fr Michael Sinnott yesterday returned to the remote Philippines area where he was abducted just two months ago.

Fr Sinnott (80) returned to Pagadian City, the same area where he was taken at gunpoint by kidnappers on October 11, a police official said.

The Wexford priest last month received a birthday cake from President Mary McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain and vowed to make his return to work for the Columban Missionaries. The 80-year-old, known as 'Fr Mal' by his family and friends, survived his 31-day ordeal despite being without his vital heart medication.

Security

"He's there already and we are providing security to the priest," chief superintendent Angelo Sunglao of the Western Mindanao district was quoted as saying yesterday.

He declined to provide further details on the missionary's return after a month-long rest in Ireland with his family.

A government source, according to a Filipino news agency, said the Irish missionary came to Pagadian on Sunday. "His arrival was made confidential due to security issues," the source said.

The Columban Society remained silent yesterday on the priest's return to Pagadian, where he had served as programme director of the Hangop Kabataan Foundation, a child welfare organisation.

Fr Sinnott said after his release that he wanted to return to his work as soon as possible. "I've been there for years working, there is where my work is."

Asked if he was afraid of being kidnapped again, he added: "They will hardly kidnap me a second time because I am a bit old, and I find hiking a bit difficult at times. I think they'd be glad to kidnap a younger man next time."

Fr Sinnott also stressed he was not angry at his kidnappers who have been charged with the priest's abduction.

Police said that efforts were being maintained to protect foreign missionaries in the province. "Even if they don't like security personnel tailing them, we really have to provide for their safety," they said.

Irish Independent

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