“We were moved when the pope prayed for our kidnapped brother, Fr. Maccalli.”

In recent years, the Sahel region of Africa has experienced an unexpected wave of violence. Countries such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have been invaded by mercenaries and jihadist militias for various motives.

FR. ANTONIO PORCELLATO
Superior General, SMA
“Today the Sahel is of great interest. All the big countries are interested in this area because of its raw materials and mining resources. We have also found human trafficking networks operating there. There is a dispute over the control of a militarily strategic site which is used by jihadist groups. Those who find themselves in the midst of these tensions are the poorest, missionaries as well as the Church.”

One of these missionaries and a victim of this violence is Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli. He is from the Society of African Missions and was kidnapped in Niger in Sept. 2018. Fr. Maccalli is still missing and is most likely to be somewhere between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

FR. ANTONIO PORCELLATO
Superior General, SMA
“I wonder what he is doing, how he is coping without being able to celebrate Mass, without being able to pray, without his books. He is a kind and friendly person. Who knows if he has even begun to engage in dialogue with his kidnappers. Who knows if he is living a normal life with them. We miss him and for sure he misses us. This situation is a constantly causing us to question and wonder what the Lord wants?”

Fr. Antonio Porcellato is the new superior of the Society of African Missions. It is a congregation from Africa that has been there since the 19th century. They are present in 17 countries on the continent. For years Fr. Antonio has known Fr. Maccalli who did missionary work in Niger, in Bomoanga. The center for mission even had to close for a while due to security reasons.

The pope is aware of this difficult situation. He recently met these missionaries in the Vatican and offered words of encouragement as well as consolation to them.

POPE FRANCIS
“I would like to join you in prayer for your brother, Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, who has been kidnapped for several months now in Niger.”

FR. ANTONIO PORCELLATO
Superior General, SMA
“The pope’s remembrance of Fr. Pierluigi, his prayer for him and the fact the Holy See is working to resolve this kidnapping have touched many.” “We’re still hopeful. We remember a phrase of the Lord, ‘I am here, do not be afraid.’ We are sure Fr. Maccalli will also remember and indeed experience it.”

It is a kidnapping reflecting the growing instability of the area caused by violence, organized crime; and the proliferation of jihadist ideologies that are endangering, especially, the Christian population.