By Christopher R. Altieri
Pope Francis prayed on Sunday for the release of six Nigerian religious sisters kidnapped just over a month ago, joining his appeal to the one issued earlier this week by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. “I heartily join myself to the appeal of the Bishops of Nigeria for the liberation of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ, kidnapped roughly a month ago from their convent in Iguoriakhi,” Pope Francis said. “I pray with insistence for them and for all the other persons who find themselves in this painful condition,” the Holy Father continued, adding, “may they all, on the occasion of Christmas, finally return to their homes.”
Gunmen seized the sisters – three professed women and three “aspirants” - women in formation – from their house in Iguoriakhi on November 13th. No one has taken responsibility for the crime. Kidnapping for ransom has become a frequent practice of criminal elements in the country.
The Holy Father made his appeal following the traditional Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square at noon on the Third Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday - which this year coincides with his 81st birthday.