Fr. Bossi, former Mindanao kidnap victim, dies in Italy

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Fr. Bossi

The people of Mindanao will always treasure their memories of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, the Italian missionary abducted in 2007 by a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said in a tribute to the priest who died in Italy Sunday.

Bossi, 62, who struggled with lung cancer for a year, died in the Humanitas clinic in Rozzano sul Naviglio in Milan.

“We feel very sad [upon learning about] the death of Fr. Bossi,” Jumoad said. “We treasure his memories, his missionary work, here in Zamboanga del Sur,” he added.

“We pray that there be more Fr. Bossis in terms of commitment to the ministry, in terms of fidelity, so we entrust his soul to the Almighty, that he be given the joy of life hereafter,” the bishop said.

Bossi lived in the Philippines for 32 years, “creat(ing) schools and working cooperatives…and taught people to overcome divisions to collaborate, share and promote the common good,” his friends and colleagues from the Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estore (PIME) recalled.

The missionary was kidnapped in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, in June 2007 by armed men belonging to a breakaway group of the MILF, and released a month later on July 10.

He returned to Italy the following month and had the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI, who had appealed to his kidnappers for his release.

In the July 20, 2007, issue of the PIME newsletter, Santos Digal wrote of Bossi’s narration of his ordeal while in captivity: “Speaking alternatively in English and the local dialect, the Italian missionary confirmed that the kidnappers ‘treated him well’ despite (being moved) constantly to evade military troops. He was fed rice and salt (and) dried fish.

To keep up with his abductors, the confessed chain smoker said he was forced to give up cigarettes: “One night while we were walking, we (had) to climb a mountain and my breathing was heavy. I told myself if I want to survive, I have to keep breathing. Better stop smoking and I stopped smoking”.

Told about the 14 Marines in Basilan who died when their unit was ambushed as they returned from a mission to check reported sightings of him, the Italian priest said, “I felt so sorry. In a way, I feel responsible for their deaths.”

Bossi, who was not allowed by his superiors to return to Payao after the kidnapping, also told his colleagues of his desire to go back to his mission work in the area.

“I want to return to Payao to greet my people and tell them I am well,” Digal quoted Bossi as saying. “They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community, it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”

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