Irish Bishops Appeal for Captive Missionaries

Filipino Government Joins With Rebels to Find Kidnapped Priest

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MAYNOOTH, Ireland, OCT. 14, 2009 ( The chairman of the Irish bishops’ Commission for the Missions is calling for the release of abducted missionaries. Meanwhile, the search for a kidnapped priest in the Philippines is underway.

Bishop Colm O’Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnois issued a statement today, in recognition of the Church’s celebration of Mission Sunday, which will take place in a few days.

He called attention to the missionaries working throughout the world, but especially the 2,000 that left their Irish homeland to serve the «poorest of the poor in 83 developing countries.»

The prelate made particular mention of Father Michael Sinnott, a priest who has been serving in the Philippines for some 40 years and was abducted last Sunday while celebrating Vespers.

«As a Columban priest, Father Sinnott dedicated his pastoral work to supporting the most vulnerable and I plead with those who have influence to expedite the release of this true servant of the people,» he affirmed.

The bishop continued: «Father Sinnott’s courage and generosity in returning to active missionary service following major surgery, and already close to eighty years of age, has touched the hearts of Irish people as well as the many people to whom he ministers.  

«I commend the efforts made by the bishops in the Philippines to obtain the release of Father Sinnott and I ask them to do all that they can to achieve this. I am also grateful for the support of Mr. Richard O’Brien, Ireland’s ambassador to Singapore who is accredited to the Philippines, for traveling to Manila to help secure the release of Father Sinnott.»

Unlikely allies

Meanwhile, today the Filipino government joined forces with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group, in order to find the kidnapped priest.

Although there has been violent conflict between the two forces, which resulted in hundreds of deaths only months ago, they agreed to work together to rescue Father Sinnott.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Michael Higgins also issued an appeal for the release of the priest, who is physically weak after undergoing heart surgery in July.

Higgins stated: «Anything visited upon him is visited upon everyone in Ireland. For this reason, our parliament wants to send a message: that we want him released and to have immediate access to the medical support that he requires.»

Bishop O’Reilly also recalled two Irish humanitarian aid workers who were kidnapped in Sudan last July.

He affirmed that «special prayers were offered for the safe and speedy release» of Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki, who have been working with the Dublin-based non-governmental organization GOAL.

«Both have now spent 103 days in captivity,» the bishop reported.

He continued: «At great risk to themselves, they worked as part of the GOAL team providing assistance to displaced people in Darfur. I implore those who are involved to show compassion to Sharon and Hilda, and to their suffering families, by releasing them safely and quickly.»

The prelate reflected on the theme of Sunday’s celebration, «Reach Out,» which, he noted, «has taken on a new meaning inspired by the bravery of our Irish missionaries.»

He concluded, «Let Father Sinnott, Sharon and Hilda and the many other Irish priests, religious and lay volunteers, be the focus of our prayers for this Mission Sunday.»

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