03 November 2009

2 November, Day 22: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Still of Fr Michael Sinnott from video of 24 October, released 31 October

2 November 2009, 10:00pm Philippine time, 2:00pm GMT

Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

It is ‘All Souls’ Day – another day of special communion between heaven and earth. It is also the 22nd Day of Father Mick’s captivity. Today we remember all our loved ones who have gone before us into eternal life, trusting in God’s faithful love. We pray for them and we know that they are praying for us. Communication does not cease with death because love reaches through death and holds us in communion with them. We should not doubt that as we entrust them with love into God’s heart, they too are powerfully holding us before the same God. They love us now with the very same love with which God loves us. Remembering our dead is a source of strength for us, if we can see that. We should remember our dead in this light.

‘The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want’ [Ps 23]. The word of God continues to assure us even as it draws us into deeper trust. The faithful God watches over us continually. We read about Jesus raising Lazarus to life in today’s Gospel [John 11]. Jesus wept. He was in ‘great distress’ as he connected with the pain of Mary and her companions – ‘if you had been here . . .’ She wonders why he did not come when sent for. Others are openly accusatory: ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ We all want God’s power to ‘save’ us from pain, harm and suffering. It is not an unreasonable expectation. We think God should use divine power to always protect us. The Incarnate God chooses human limitation and vulnerability as his preferred way.

Jesus wept and sighed deeply. God does not always save us as we want to be saved. Instead he enters the place of pain and is there with us, weeping and sighing just as we are. This is the first step of God’s compassion. He is ‘with us’ and indeed many times he carries us. Second step: as he walks with us he gently opens us up to promise and trust: ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ We are not in a hopeless situation. The God who is ‘with us’ and ‘weeps with us’ is also ‘waiting with us’. And he knows the way through. He has been there before us. The promise will be fulfilled and many times in unexpected ways. He urges us to trust and ‘attend’ to his presence with us. May this God enable those who can, to remove the ‘stone’ blocking Father Mick’s place of captivity and may we joyfully hear him being called to ‘come out’ soon.

It was a day of interviews. A comment that I had made Saturday that we are missionaries and not commodities found a resonance with many when it was reported in the press here. Just after 7am Radio Veritas called and asked me to go on air. I did at 7.30am. It was an opportunity to try to affirm what the missionary vocation is and why we would not want ransom paid. It also allowed me to repeat something that has also found a resonance here – that Father Mick would insist on money being used for the poor and disadvantaged, especially those with special needs, rather than to ‘get me out of here’ (his place of captivity). He never put himself first and he won’t start now. There were a number of other requests for interviews throughout the day. I ended up speaking with UCANews, Vatican Radio and Misna News agency (Rome) among others. I used all these to make the same points.

Bishop Deogracias Iňiquez (of Kalookan), speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said that the CBCP were against any ransom being paid. The government here also made it clear that they will not pay ransom. The Crisis Management Committee (CMC), here in Pagadian, said they were prepared to negotiate with those holding Mick ‘within the government’s no-ransom policy’. One of the things that they would try to do would be to make sure that Father Mick gets all the medication he needs. There is a willingness to maintain the contact and that is important. But the waiting continues and patience will be needed. My own hope remains that there would be a breakthrough quickly and that compassion would prevail and that Father Mick would be freed very soon. That is my hope, not an expectation. Previous abductions would suggest that we may have to wait a while yet.

In the waiting, the prayers continue and ‘encircle’ the world. Many thanks to all who sent accounts of what happened in their place during the Special Day of Prayer and Fasting last Wednesday. Hopefully we may find some way of collating all this. The following is a quote from an email that Fr Dan O’Connor (a Columban priest from New Zealand) sent to me from Badin in Pakistan. I feel it captures something of what went on everywhere, no matter the size of the group.

‘On Wednesday we Columbans here in Badin, ie, Annie Budiongan (from Loboc, Bohol, a Columban lay missionary), Carmela Capistrano, (also a Columban lay missionary from Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, near Pagadian City), Fr Bernard Subarao, (a Columban priest associate from the Diocese of Malaybalay) and I came together for a Holy Hour for Father Mick. We were joined by some parishioners and also a Muslim man came for a while to join us in the church in prayer.

‘That day I also spoke with the leader in the nearby mosque who assured me that he would also pray for Father Mick's safe release "with big voice". That evening while out in the village called Umawha we offered Mass for Father Mick. A number of Hindus also attended the Mass.’

God continues to use Father Mick to bring many people prayerfully together. As he enters his 23rd night of captivity let us, as part of this ‘prayer community’, continue to pray with and for him: ‘I waited, I waited for the Lord and he stooped down to me; he heard my cry’ [Ps.40].

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