Priest Offers Forgiveness to Kidnappers

Salvadoran Recovering in Hospital after Ransom Is Paid

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, AUG. 29, 2001 ( Salvadoran priest Rogelio Esquivel, who was released by kidnappers this week after payment for his ransom, is recovering in a hospital here.

Father Esquivel, 60, sent a taped message to his parishioners in which he forgives his kidnappers. “In the name of God, I offer forgiveness to my captors, and exhort them to repent and be converted to the love of God,” he said.

An unidentified doctor told reporters that the priest´s hands are injured because he was manacled during the 15 days of his captivity. The priest was also struck on the head at the time of capture, the doctor explained.

Father Esquivel was kidnapped Aug. 12, at the end of an evening Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Santa Tecla, some 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of San Salvador. He was released at dawn on Monday at a gas station in the west of the country, after his family paid an undisclosed amount for his ransom.

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said that the kidnappers were demanding a sum of money, recently donated by the churches of Colombia, in exchange for the priest´s release.

The archbishop, who did not disclose the amount or source of the funds, said that the donation “was used immediately” in the reconstruction of the church where Father Esquivel worked, which was destroyed by earthquakes early this year.

On Monday night, dozens of parishioners, who attended a number of Vigils to pray for the priest´s release, crowded into the Church of the Immaculate Concepción for a thanksgiving Mass.

Kidnappings are common in El Salvador. Police reported 38 kidnappings this year; only nine victims have been released.

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