An Italian priest who’s been living in Nigeria as a missionary was kidnapped when he was visiting Benin City, Edo State on Thursday. Prosecutors are investigating it as a terrorist act.
On Friday afternoon Rome time, papal spokesman American Greg Burke went on Twitter to say that Pope Francis has been informed of the kidnapping of Father Maurizio Pallù, 63, and “is praying for him.”
Papa Francesco è stato informato del sacerdote italiano rapito in Nigeria, don Maurizio Pallù, e sta pregando per lui.
— Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome) October 13, 2017
The priest is originally from Florence, but belongs to the diocese of Rome. He has been in Nigeria for the past three years. According to the Italian news agency Ansa, he was stopped, together with his four companions, on his way to Benin City. The armed group that attacked them stole their belongings and kidnapped Pallù.
At the moment, there’s no more information available.
Pallù was born in Florence on Oct. 18, 1954. According to a brief biography of the priest published by his parish in Florence, in 1971 he “encountered” the Neocatecumenal Way, studied history and was a lay missionary for 11 years. In 1988, after his father’s death, he entered the seminary in Rome. After ordination, he worked as a priest in the Italian capital, and then as a missionary priest in the Dutch city of Haarlem before being assigned to the archdiocese in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
The Diocese of Rome expressed “apprehension and worry” for the priest’s safety and said the church “was united in prayer” for his liberation.
He’s not the first priest to have been kidnapped this year on the outskirts of Benin City. On April 18, Father Samuel Okwuidegbe, a 50-year-old Nigerian Jesuit, was also taken. On Sept. 3, Father Cyriacus Onunkwo was found murdered in the town of Orlu, Imo state.