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Fr. Bossi Returns to his flock, expressed no bitterness for abductors

MANILA, July 23, 2007—Tears of joy are expected on Wednesday as Italian missionary Giancarlo Bossi returns to his flock at St. Paul the Apostle parish after 40 days in the boondocks of Lanao del Norte. His parishioners said they are in the thick of preparation for a meaningful celebration.

Fr. Bossi said he longs to return to his parish, “to be with my people whom I love.” He has been parish priest to Payao residents for the past six years. Being a parish priest he said is comparable with a head of a family “who ought to be with his children.”

The jolly missionary who was a common figure in his parish, a part of the Prelature of Ipil, said he has no bitterness despite the hardships he had for 40 days.

He admitted he doesn’t know if his abductors learned anything from him during the 40 days he was held captive. He has considered his captors his brothers and prayed for them at night. He, however, added “if they kidnap me again, I would still pray for them as there’s no bitterness in my heart whatsoever.” \

He said “when we pray the ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ we are all His sons and we are all brothers and sisters.”

He managed to laugh about an incident last June 10 when he was abducted while on board a motorcycle. “I was told by my captors to move fast, ‘dali, dali’ (literally translated: faster, faster),” Fr. Bossi said.

Convinced he was abducted for ransom, Fr. Bossi said he had difficulties adjusting to the new and forced routines. “I began my day with prayers and spent time sitting on a hammock or rock,” the 57-year old missionary said.

He had a lot of time to think and reflect on the harsh realities of living in the jungles of southern Philippines. He said he never saw policemen and military troopers nor his abductors immediate families and children in the hinterlands.

His congregation, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions will have its general assembly in Manila with their Superior General in attendance, early next month.

Asked whether his kidnapping and that of Fr. Luciano Benedetti in 1998 would result in a paradigm shift in missionary work, the over six feet missionary said he personally believes their program thrusts would remain the same. Another Italian missionary, Guiseppe Pierantoni from the Sacerdotes Corde Jesu was abducted in 2001 allegedly by the same group that kidnapped Fr. Bossi.

“I think if we abandon certain places in the frontiers for safer places, we all better go back home (to Italy) where we also lack priests,” Fr. Bossi said.

Still the same gregarious person his fellow missionaries knew before the June 10 kidnapping, Fr. Bossi said he never feared for his life, because of his personality, “having high spirits and (being) a jolly person.”

He said this experience deepened his faith for “when one is held captive, he has all the time to reflect, meditate and ask questions.”

Fr. Bossi admitted his abductors had an ustadz at their side during the early days of his captivity. “This ustadz was very strict in prayer as my abductors prayed five times a day,” Fr. Bossi said. He added when the ustadz left his group, prayers were reduced to a three-times-a-day routine, during sunrise, lunchtime and during the evening.

Such an experience led him to ask himself if indeed they were praying to the same God. “Faith and life are one,” Fr. Bossi explained. He added his abductors believed a gap exists between faith and life, “that it is alright to hold one hostage and pray and thank God at the same time.”

Asked about the risks and potential dangers of being assigned to areas like Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay, Fr. Bossi said “it may still be worthy to stay here.”

“I will have to visit my 87-year old mother and siblings in Italy for they too suffered as they didn’t know what was happening to me while I was in the hands of my abductors,” Fr. Bossi explained. He said he will take his family to a place where “we can talk and reflect on what transpired and what would happen next.”

“I will also personally thank friends and the Italians who prayed and held rallies for my rescue,” Fr. Bossi concluded.

This afternoon (July 23) Fr. Giancarlo Bossi and his immediate superior, Fr. Gianni Sandalo left Manila for Zamboanga City to prepare for his return to Payao—a place he considered home for over six years. (Melo Acuna)

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