Colombian Nun Kidnapped in Mali in 2017 Freed, Greeted, Blessed By Pope Francis at Vatican

Pope Francis greets the recently freed Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. Vatican Media.

On Sunday, October 10, Pope Francis greeted and blessed Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti, the Colombian Catholic Nun who was reportedly freed October 9, four years after being kidnapped by Islamists in Mali.

The Holy Father blessed Sr. Gloria before Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica where he was launching a worldwide synodal process.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Sr. Gloria, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, was kidnapped in Southern Mali in 2017.

The Malian Presidency announced that she was released on Saturday, October 9 after “four years and eight months of combined efforts of several intelligence services.”


The Presidency posted photographs on social media of Sr. Gloria meeting with interim President, Col. Assimi Goïta, accompanied by Jean Cardinal Zerbo, the Archbishop of Mali's Bamako Archdiocese.

“We prayed a lot for her release. I thank the Malian authorities and other good people who made this release possible,” Cardinal Zerbo has been quoted as telling AFP.

The men forced her to hand over the keys to the community’s ambulance. The vehicle was later found abandoned. Three other Sisters were present at their house but escaped.

The kidnappers were going to take the youngest Nun, but Sr. Gloria reportedly volunteered to take her place.

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The Colombian Nun had served in Mali for 12 years before her abduction.

Her community administers a large health center in the country, as well as a home for some 30 orphans.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Earlier this year, Sr. Gloria was allowed to give proof that she was alive with a handwritten note in which she asked people to pray for her.

In the 11-line message sent to her brother Edgar Narváez Argoti via the Red Cross, Sr. Gloria appealed for "a great deal of prayers."


“I send everyone my warmest greetings. May the good Lord bless them and grant them health. I have been held prisoner for four years, and now I am with a new group”, the Colombian Nun wrote in the message, which the Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, cited in a July 9 report.

She identified the group who held her as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, an Islamist organization in West Africa and the Maghreb.

In her message reportedly dated 3 February 2021, the 57-year-old Franciscan Nun went on to implore: “May they all pray a great deal for me. May God bless them all. I am hopeful that God will help me to regain my freedom. Your loving sister, Gloria.”

According to the July 9 report by ACN, the letter, which Sr. Gloria wrote in Spanish was delivered to her family in May.

Edgar Narváez, a schoolteacher in the town of Pasto, in Colombia, where Sr. Gloria was born told ACN International that in his first note to his sister, the Franciscan Nun, he had informed her that their mother, Rosita Argoti de Narváez, had died in September 2020 at the age of 87.

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Their mother, Edgar Narváez recalled, had died “unable to endure the sadness and despair any longer.”

The schoolteacher said that his sister replied months later, and explains, “She sent greetings to the family, said she was in good health, and asked for an appeal to be made to the authorities here in Colombia to take measures to enable her to be released and return to Colombia.”

Speaking about the state of health of his sister, based on the most recent information he had been able to acquire through the Red Cross, Edgar Narváez told ACN that Sr. Gloria is well, although the freeing in October last year of her fellow hostage, the French doctor Sophie Petronin, with whom she had shared her captivity, had affected her greatly.

“Their separation caused great psychological and mental hardship to my sister, because they had shared four years of friendship. They got on very well together and were very good friends,” he said.

Edgar Narváez told the Pontifical charity that the two women had spent most of their time together in the jihadists’ camp.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Mali is currently under the leadership of Goïta, who led two coups in a span of nine months, first ousting the country’s democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020 and, in May this year, the interim leaders who were to head the country’s transitional government.

Following the May 24 coup, Mali’s constitutional court named Goïta as transitional President of Mali until the country holds elections.

The move attracted criticism, with Catholic leaders in the country calling it a “seizure of power outside the legal process.”

Mali is struggling with an Islamist insurgency that began in the North in 2012 and has spread to Burkina Faso and Niger, with a rise in kidnappings.

A version of this story was first published by the CNA, ACI Africa's news partner. It has been adapted by ACI Africa.