Catholic Church calls for prayers for Irish priest

| October 25, 2009

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines — The leadership of the Catholic Church in Zamboanga del Sur, has called on the faithful to stage prayer vigils for the immediate release of 79-year-old Irish missionary priest Michael Sinnott who was kidnapped from his residence last Oct. 11.

Speaking in a multi-sectoral and ecumenical prayer rally on Saturday, Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar, prelate of the Pagadian diocese, said he asked the parishes throughout the province’s 21 towns and this city to hung streamers bearing the same message.

The call for prayer vigils was actually aired by Cabajar in an October 16 pastoral letter.

He said the prayers should continue especially to ask for the continuing safety and health of Sinnott while in captivity, and hopefully his eventual freedom.

The prayer rally by some 600 people coming from various faiths was staged in a bid to soften the stance of the kidnappers of the ailing priest who is on his second week of captivity.

Faced with an atmosphere of waiting and a host of unverified information relating to the condition and whereabouts of Sinnott, people here turned to the “more prayer, more power” outlook.

“Kagawasan, kalingkawasan ni Fr. Mick iampo natong tanan (Let us all pray for the freedom of Fr. Mick),” declared a banner in the rally.

This developed as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said its forces were in the final stretch of wrapping its validation of the findings of its ground forces about the current location of Sinnott and his kidnappers.

Eid Kabalu, MILF chief for civil-military affairs, said they already communicated with Philippine authorities about its initial findings. According to Kabalu, citing intelligence received by the MILF, Sinnott is being held somewhere in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte.

However, Kabalu said that as of Sunday, it was “not yet advisable …to launch a rescue operation.”

Local authorities trying to contact with Sinnott’s kidnappers to be able to deliver his medicines and get proof of life, have not received any positive feedback from the abductors.

Saturday’s three-hour prayer rally overflowed with testimonies from individuals and groups of how Sinnott’s work benefited them. There were emotional appeals for his unconditional release.

The gathering is the second in a series that started Sunday last week and spearheaded by parents of special children served by the charity initiative Hangop Kabataan and Sinnott’s colleagues in the Interfaith Forum for Peace and Solidarity.

In a statement, the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations stressed that “the kidnapping has no place in a democratic and civilized society.”

Isagani Verdida, father of a Hangop Kabataan beneficiary, said he has been praying that Sinnott’s kidnappers would be able to realize “their shameful act at each day” they tend to him in captivity.

Verdida said that by abducting the Irish priest, “they also kidnapped the hopes of the (special) children (at Hangop Kabataan).”

“I know that in your heart you have the seeds of divine goodness. Hear your heart,” said Fr. Patrick O’ Donoghue, superior of the Missionary Society of Saint Columban in the Philippines, addressing himself to the kidnappers.

“I know you are capable of mercy and compassion,” he added.

O’ Donoghue clarified that the Columban congregation did not exactly know who Sinnott’s kidnappers have been or where he was being kept until now.

“But one thing I know, they have done wrong,” O’ Donoghue said.

Cabajar said he hoped that Sinnott’s kidnappers “will not be tempted to hurt him.”

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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