Joy, Gratitude to God as Religious Missionary in Niger is Freed after Two-year Abduction

Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, freed Thursday, October 8 after spending two years in captivity.
Credit: Society of African Missions (SMA).

News reports of the release of Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli who was abducted just over two years ago in Niger have brought joy and gratitude to members of the Clergy in Africa and beyond who have interpreted the event as an answer to concerted supplications.

A member of the Society of African Missions (SMA), Italian-born Fr. Luigi Maccalli was kidnapped by unknown people in his Church the night of 17 September 2018 in Bomoanga, near the border between Niger and Burkina Faso.

On Thursday, October 8, Mali's government announced the release of Fr. Luigi alongside three others, including Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, a French social worker, Sophie Petronin, and an Italian citizen, Nicola Chiacchio.

Announcing Fr. Luigi Maccalli’s release in a statement obtained by ACI Africa, SMA Superior General, Fr. Antonio Porcellato says, “The joy of the whole SMA family is great and our gratitude to the Lord is even greater.”

“The Maccalli family, with Fr. Walter Maccalli, our confrere and brother of Fr. Luigi, and all those who were concerned, prayed and contributed in one way or the other for the liberation of Fr. Luigi,” the Rome-based Cleric further says.

He encourages the members of the Society of Apostolic Life to continue praying for others who are still in captivity. 

In a message shared with ACI Africa, the Provincial Superior of the SMA Province of Niger-Benin, Fr. Selako Desire says that the release of Fr. Luigi Maccalli is “good news” for the members of the Society.

“With a grateful heart, l wish to thank you all for your prayers in respect of Fr. Maccalli who has been in captivity. The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord,” the Provincial Superior of SMA in Niger-Benin says in his October 9 message sent to ACI Africa.

He adds, “We thank all those who prayed with us for the release of our brother Luigi. Let us continue to pray for the release of those who are still in captivity; and for those who have died, may they rest in peace.”

Fr. Luigi Maccalli had been a missionary in Ivory Coast for several years before being commissioned to the Archdiocese of Niamey at Bomoanga parish, which  has been described as “an isolated and neglected area because of the lack of roads, communications and infrastructure.”

In a message issued Friday, October 9, hours after the release of the Italian-born Cleric, the Archbishop Niamey, Laurent Lompo thanked “God who answers our humble prayers for the liberation of Father Pier Luigi.”

“I also take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to all those who prayed and contributed to this liberation, especially the political authorities of our country,” the Archbishop of Niamey says in his message. 

In another message shared with ACI Africa October 9, the leadership of the SMA Formation House in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi says, “Our hearts are filled with immense joy and thanksgiving to the Lord.”

“We join the larger SMA family in gratitude to the Lord for the release of confrère Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli who had been in captivity for the last two years,” the leadership of the Formation House further says and adds, “We continue to pray for others who are in the hands of the captors that they may also be released.” 

In his native Diocese of Crema, news reports of Fr. Luigi Maccalli’s release were met with “great joy at the festive sound of the Cathedral bells in his parish of Madignano and in many churches of the dioceses of Crema,” the Local Ordinary,  Bishop Daniele Gianotti testified.

On his part, the Secretary of the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, terms the release of Fr. Luigi as “special sign of hope for all of us, for Africa and for the Universal Church, in the month traditionally dedicated to missions and in view of the forthcoming celebration of World Mission Sunday.”

In his October 9 message, Tanzanian-born Archbishop Rugambwa further says, “It is the sign and living testimony that the grace of Christ works and gives new hope in times of violence, conflict and pandemic.”

The Rome-based Archbishop adds that the release of Fr. Luigi “shows us that the grace of Christ is stronger than any difficulty and we must always trust in him.” 

Following his release, Fr. Luigi Maccalli was expected to arrive in Rome October 9.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]