, 14 October, 2020 / 9:40 PM
Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, a member of Society of African Missions (SMA) who was recently freed after two years of captivity has been hailed as a “man of faith, forgiveness and fraternity.”
Fr. Maccalli was released on October 8. The Italian-born missionary had been kidnapped by unknown people the night of 17 September 2018 in his mission at Bomoanga in Niger, near the Burkina Faso border.
In a Wednesday, October 14 report seen by ACI Africa, SMA Superior General, Fr. Antonio Porcellato recounts his encounter with Fr. Maccalli in Rome soon after his October 8 release by jihadists saying he cannot forget his confrere's “deep faith, despite the doubts” he had in captivity.
“I was struck by his call for forgiveness, fraternity, the hope that we can reach an understanding with the jihadists,” Fr. Antonio says.
He recalls Fr. Maccalli saying, “There are other hostages left in the hands of terrorists. We must have the ideal of fraternity within us, and try to resolve our conflicts and our misunderstandings with non-violence.”
Fr. Maccalli had been a missionary in Ivory Coast for several years before being commissioned to Bomoanga parish in Niger’s Archdiocese of Niamey, which has been described as “an isolated and neglected area because of the lack of roads, communications and infrastructure.”
In the October 14 report, the Rome-based SMA Superior General notes that while in captivity, Fr. Maccalli “felt abandoned, he did not know where his captors took him each time and he had doubts also about the role of the SMA: what are they doing to free me?”
“But he never lost hope, trust, and the sense of God's presence that accompanied him everywhere,” he adds in reference to Fr. Maccalli.
Fr. Antonio also notes that while other prisoners converted to Islam “more out of convenience than out of conviction, to get better treatment,” Fr. Maccalli “always remained calm and convinced in his faith, in his relationship with the Lord."
Without access to a Bible and the Eucharist, Fr. Maccalli “learned to listen to silence – the silence of the great Sahara Desert, the inner silence,” Fr. Antonio recounts what his freed confrere has been sharing and adds, “Like the prophet Isaiah, he could feel the presence of God in silence, in solitude. He found that God always gave him strength.”
The SMA Superior General says he treasures the encounter he has had with Fr. Maccalli after his release.
“They were moments that I will never forget, that will remain forever in my mind,” Fr. Antonio says.
The October 8 release of Fr. Maccalli was received with joy and gratitude by SMA leadership, his confreres, the Archbishop of Niamey, Laurent Lompo, the Local Ordinary of his native Diocese of Crema in Italy, Bishop Daniele Gianotti, as well as the Secretary of the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, among others.
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