‘No more foreign priests in Sulu’

- Edu Punay () - August 13, 2007 - 12:00am

Catholic Church leaders have decided to assign foreign missionaries to safer areas in Mindanao, following the kidnapping of Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi in Zamboanga Sibugay last June.

Bishop Angelito Lampon, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo in Sulu, said the Church has learned from the ordeal of Bossi, and foreign priests will now be assigned in areas that are considered as
low-risk posts.

“Our strategy today is to field all-Filipino clergy in Sulu and assign foreign missionaries to safer places such as retreat houses,” Lampon said in an interview over Catholic-run Radyo Veritas.

The decision from the Church came almost a month after Bossi was released by his abductors after 40 days in captivity.

The Italian priest was seized last June 10 near his parish in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay and held in the jungle near the border of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

Lampon said the decision not to assign foreign missionaries in Jolo and other high-risk areas in Southern Philippines is a preventive measure even after the superiors of Bossi from Pontipicho Instituto Misioni Esteri (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) had already said he would be reassigned to Mindanao.

Bossi was released last July 19 by alleged rogue members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The kidnappers initially demanded a P500,000 ransom. Authorities denied paying ransom for his release.

Bossi earlier expressed willingness to go back to his parish in Payao, despite his ordeal. Bossi had left for a vacation in Italy and is expected to return to the country after a long rest.

It can also be recalled that an American Fr. Clarence Bertelsman was also kidnapped in Jolo in 1998. He suffered a fatal heart ailment a year after the incident.

Another missionary who was kidnapped was Frenchman Fr. Yves Caroff in Timanan, South Upi in Maguindanao.

“We learned our lessons for even our Spanish nuns got kidnapped before,” he lamented.

In another development, Bishop Lampon said that the Vicariate of Jolo is about to commence the parish consultations for the Second National Rural Congress scheduled for the first half of 2008.

The consultation will be limited to the parishes where Catholics have a strong presence considering that Christians belong to the minority in Jolo, Lampon said.

“We may have difficulties in conducting consultations the BEC way in the vicariate for the Second National Rural Congress,” the Jolo apostolic vicar admitted.

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