Benin City, Nigeria, Oct 18, 2017 / 10:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Maurizio Pallù, an Italian missionary who was kidnapped in southern Nigeria last week, was freed Tuesday.
He was freed late in the evening of Oct. 17, according to authorities, and is doing well.
“The devil is cowardly, he wants to make us afraid but he has chosen the wrong way because we are poor men, that have fear, but are sustained by the grace of God,” Fr. Pallù told Vatican Radio Oct. 18.
Noting that it was actually the second time he’s been kidnapped in Nigeria, Pallù said that it was more difficult this time, but he saw “the miracles that the Lord did, just great miracles that the Lord did to keep us alive.”
“It means that the Lord has a big plan in this country because the devil is attacking with great force to destroy the work of God in this nation.”
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 Oct. 12 by armed men near Benin City.
According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told Radio Capital Wednesday that Pallù had been freed and is doing well. “We await him in Italy soon,” he said according to Italian news agency ANSA.
The first took place Oct. 13, 2016. He was released after only an hour and a half.
This time, he was taken captive on the eve of Oct. 13 and kept in the woods along with a Nigerian student and brother for five days.
According to Vatican Insider, Pallù had called his mother on Sunday night to tell her he was well and would be released soon. Pallù's mother, Laura Pallù, made the phone call public during a prayer vigil for her son's release in parish of Santa Lucia La Sala in northern Florence.
The priest said he has been asked to return to Italy for the time being, though he would like to stay in Nigeria if he can.
The devil “is keeping millions of people slaves here with lies, cowardice and corruption,” he said, “and when they allow me to return I will return here very happy and offer my poor person for the evangelization of Nigeria.”
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 Holland, 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.