File photo of Fr Luigi Maccalli 

By Vatican News staff writer

Oct 20 2020

Following Pope Francis’ mention of Fr. Luigi Maccalli at the Sunday Angelus, the Italian missionary expresses gratitude to all those who prayed for him during his two years in captivity in Niger.

Fr Luigi Maccalli is full of gratitude and hope following his release from captivity in Niger earlier this month.

Pope Francis mentioned the Italian missionary at his Angelus address on Sunday, in connection with World Mission Day.

The Pope thanked God for Fr. Luigi’s release, and that of three others with him, and invited everyone to pray for all those who are persecuted throughout the world.

Later on Sunday, Fr. Luigi spoke to Vatican Radio about what got him through his ordeal.

Forgiveness and prayer

“Missionaries break the cycle of violence with forgiveness, which is what I offered those who kept me in captivity.”

Fr Luigi was kidnapped in Niger on September 17, 2018, and released in Mali in a prisoner exchange nearly 2 weeks ago.

“I had nothing besides prayer,” he said. Fr. Luigi also admitted to still working to recover from his ordeal, which lasted over 2 years.

He thanked everyone for their prayers during that time, saying he was sure that sooner or later he would get free and be able to embrace his family again.

Missio Dei

Fr. Luigi said that at first he felt his time as a missionary was being wasted in prison.

“I now realize,” he said, “that those were two fruitful years, because the mission is Missio Dei and it is in good hands, God’s hands.”

That time also allowed him to feel in communion with all “innocent victims of violence and war.”

“We missionaries are often easy targets of revenge and persecution in many parts of the world,” he added. “We are dangerous because we are armed with nonviolence and believe that peace will prevail.”

Knotted-up Rosary

Fr. Luigi confessed that, when watching the young men with weapons in hand, “they knew not what they were doing.”

Prayer, repeated Fr. Luigi Maccalli, was his strength.

“They kidnapped me in my pajamas,” he said, “but I made a rosary out of knotted up cloth which I prayed every day, morning and evening, entrusting myself to Mary.