The brother of Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, abducted one year ago in Niger, still holds out “hope for his liberation”.

by Paulo Aido

“Of course!” Walter Maccalli, also a missionary and priest, does not have the least doubt that his brother, Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, who was abducted in Niger exactly one year ago on 17 September 2018, will eventually be set free.

Precisely on the first anniversary of his brother’s abduction, Father Walter, an Italian SMA missionary currently working in Foya, Liberia, sent a message exclusively to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International. In it, while expressing his certainty that it is still possible for him to be set free, he confesses that he has had no news about the whereabouts of his brother since the day he was abducted, on 17 September 2018, by eight armed men on motorcycles from his home in Bamoanga, Niger, directly opposite the local church.

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Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli with families in his parish, before his abduction. Photo copyright ©DR.

“A year has passed since Gigi was abducted, and unfortunately we have heard nothing since then. All the news from journalists and from the government of Burkina Faso to the effect that he had been or would be brought back to Niger are no more than suppositions that have not been confirmed…”

Responding to questions from ACN, Father Walter confesses that he is living this first anniversary of his brother’s abduction “in a state of mind that cannot be put into words”, a state that cannot be understood except by someone who has “experienced this reality in his own flesh”.

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Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli greeting his parishioners. Photo copyright ©DR.

Daily prayer and “the solidarity and support of my other brother priests” are the the things that are helping Father Walter not to lose hope. He explains, for example, how in his own parish community in Madignano, Liberia, the people are “praying the Holy Rosary every day, as are many other parishes in our diocese”. It is a practice that also extends to many other missionary communities all over the world.

Speaking to ACN, Father Walter also revealed that there is “a prayer that we pray together in our community in Foya, Liberia: “Jesus, please free Father Pierluigi from his captivity and bring him home, safe and sound.” And then there are other prayers and phrases that spring right from the heart, such as: ”May this situation end soon, O Lord!” 

Asked about some of the main difficulties that Father Pierluigi may be facing, his brother replies that “undoubtedly” he will be feeling the burden of being unable to celebrate Holy Mass, and of course the separation from his family and friends. But at the same time he adds his conviction that “after the first moments of tension and fear during his abduction, he will undoubtedly have found a response to this new mission in prayer…, in other words in his sense of being a missionary from the depths of his heart, exercising his ministry with fidelity and compassion, as he had always done in his parish community in Bomoanga, doing good, helping his fellow captives, with a kind word for his captors, comforting and caring for the sick…”

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Father Pierluigi Maccalli with children - before his abduction. Photo copyright ©DR.

12 months on from his brother’s abduction, Father Walter Maccalli acknowledges that he “cannot relax” and that he is “constantly waiting to receive the good news” that his brother is free. “It is like an open wound that remains open and does not heal over.”

Asked by ACN if he still believes his brother will eventually be freed, he responds unequivocally, “Of course!” “This is our hope, that he will be set free. We know that these things take time, but we continue to hope with faith and patience for his liberation. The prayers we pray daily in our village are prayed with this hope. There are many people who are praying for him. He did good before in his mission in Bomoanga, and I am quite certain that he is continuing to do so in his new mission.”

Working today in Liberia, Father Walter himself is by no means safe from possible attacks like the one suffered by his brother. Nonetheless, he insists that is not afraid. “When we are on a mission, we are not concerned with the danger we are running, but with our mission, because we have an important duty to fulfil, namely to proclaim the Gospel. The important thing is to fulfil our own proper mission, so as a result we are not concerned about the possible dangers.”

Turning directly to the benefactors and friends of the pontifical foundation ACN all over the world and thanking them for their solidarity, Father Walter begs us not to forget to pray continuously for all missionaries. “May you remember us, the missionaries, in your prayers and may you not forget us, may you always continue to express your solidarity in your prayers and your practical support, which is so important to us. May you continue to spread news and give witness of unity and peace, so that these persecutions may come to an end. And may God bless you all and your families. Many, many thanks.”

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Father Pierluigi Maccalli, who was abducted in Niger exactly one year ago on 17 September 2018. Photo: Father Pierluigi Maccalli celebrating Holy Mass - before his abduction. Copyright ©DR

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