There had been no news of Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli SMA since his abduction in September 2018
A newspaper in Niger, Aïr Info, has received a 23-second video that appears to show Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, an Italian member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who has not been heard from since he was abducted nearly two years ago in the landlocked West African country.
Eight assailants on motorcycles kidnapped the 59-year-old priest on Sept. 17, 2018 in a village in the southwestern part of Niger.
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary witnessed Father Maccalli being taken from his home near the church. Fortunately, the sisters were not harmed.
There had been no news of the abducted SMA priest’s fate or whereabouts until Aïr Info reported on April 6 that it had received a video showing him to still be alive.
Another Italian hostage
However, the newspaper did not release the video.
Instead, it published an article with an image capture showing Father Maccalli with a long white beard, dressed in grey clothes and wearing dark sunglasses.
The photo shows another Italian hostage, identified as Nicola Ciacco. But the paper did not say where or when he was abducted.
« I can confirm that the video is authentic. It was filmed on March 24, as they say themselves in the video, » Aïr Info editor Ibrahim Manzo told AFP.
« No proof »
However, local Church officials remain cautious.
« We have (to date) no proof that Father Pier Luigi is alive, » said Father Thomas Codjovi, communications officer for the Catholic mission in Niger.
He said he’d seen only the screenshot showing the missionary, but not the video.
« If this information is true, it is good to know that he is alive, » Codjovi said.
A dangerous area
Jihadist attacks and kidnappings are frequent in southwestern Niger, where this abduction took place, as well as on the border with Nigeria (southeast). Westerners are prime targets.
Niger is a predominantly Muslim country where Christians represent only 1.5% of the population.
There two Catholic dioceses in the country, Niamey and Maradi, which are part of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso-Niger.
Archbishop Laurent Lompo of Niamey is from a place not far from the village where Maccalli’s kidnapping took place.
The Muslim and Catholic communities generally live peacefully together in Niger.
However, some 45 churches were burned down during rioting in January 2015 after the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon mocking the Prophet Mohammed
Lucie Sarr (with Afp, traduction La Croix International)
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