Freed in Philippines, Missionary Credits Prayer

Dehonian Father Giuseppe Pierantoni Was Kidnapped in October

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MANILA, Philippines, APRIL 8, 2002 ( An Italian missionary, freed today after 172 days of captivity, said the «power of prayer has saved me.»

Father Giuseppe Pierantoni, 45, told the superior general of his Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Dehonians) that he lived through «a significant experience, capable of changing a person.» The missionary said he had prayed a lot.

Father Pierantoni, who was kidnapped Oct. 17, appeared at a press conference here organized by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The missionary thanked Bishop Zacharias Jimenez of Pagadian. «I think my release is due to a miracle as a consequence of your prayers,» he said.

Bishop Jimenez had worked to obtain the missionary´s release. He asked for prayers, published information and kept up contacts with the kidnappers.

«Now I am better than I was,» Father Pierantoni said. «Life in the midst of nature has been a sort of spiritual retreat.»

The army reported that the priest was released around 2 a.m., after an intense confrontation between the kidnappers and government forces in Tungawan, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Zamboanga. He was then taken to Manila, the capital, to meet with the Philippine president.

According to military sources, the group of kidnappers consisted primarily of former guerrillas of the Moorish Islamic Liberation Front, a rebel movement that has been negotiating peace with the executive for months. The authorities said that no ransom was paid for the missionary´s release.

Father Virginio Bressanelli, superior general of the Dehonians, said in a press statement that «the religious is in good health, although tired because of the tensions, moves and precariousness lived over this time.»

«He is, however, serene and without any feelings of animosity toward those responsible for this painful experience,» Father Bressanelli said.

The superior general believes that the experience has helped his congregation to grow «in the interreligious dialogue with Muslims.»

«We have very much appreciated the position of some of them who, in addition to condemning the kidnapping, have called for special moments of prayer in their mosques,» the superior added.

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