The missionaries returned to their parish in Opiti that afternoon, said the bishop, who is supporting talks with the LRA to end the civil war in northern Uganda.

Father Ponziano Velluto, 71, and Father Alex Pizzi, 63, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, were kidnapped in Opiti, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Gulu, in the early morning hours.

Bishop Odama said the two priests were carrying a message addressed to him from the rebels. But he said he had not yet received the message.

According to the Misna missionary agency, the kidnappings took place following a confrontation between the LRA and the Ugandan army. Before escaping, the rebels looted the local Catholic mission and took the missionaries hostage.

Father Velluto was kidnapped for a day once before by the guerrillas, in March 2000.