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Former kidnap victim, Fr. Sinnott leaving PHP

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An Irish missionary kidnapped and freed by gunmen in 2009 in Mindanao is leaving the Philippines for good.

Father Michael Sinnott of the Society of St. Columban is leaving for Ireland Friday and will retire there after many years of serving the Catholic Church and various communities in Mindanao.

In a send-off party held at the Malate Church on Tuesday night, Sinnott admitted how difficult it was for him to decide whether to retire in the Philippines or in his native land.

“It really was a very difficult decision to make. I realized that I’m going home and not going back but I still think I made the right decision that there is really nothing more I can do here in Manila that there’s more I can do at home,” Sinnott said.

“I will live a big part of my heart here in the Philippines and I will always remember the people that I met and helped me,” he said.

His 58 years as a missionary has given Sinnott a unique window into the heart of a people that have lived through poverty, armed conflicts, and the daily struggles of too little food and too little hope for the future.

When he arrived in Mindanao in the 1950s, he was a young priest only few years out of the seminary.

“After ordination two of us were sent to Rome and we know that time that one of us would be going to Japan and one to the Philippines but we don’t know who…,” he said.

“I was delighted when I got my appointment to the Philippines and I’ve never been sorry ever since,” said Sinnott.

Working in one of the country’s poorest region was hard, he said but it was all worth it.

On October 11, 2009, heavily armed men abducted Sinnott from his house in Pagadian City and was forced to walk into the mountains despite having a serious heart condition.

Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and insurgents from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front have a presence in the vast Zamboanga peninsula.

He was released in a coastal village in Zamboanga City after a month in captivity and without carrying his medication.

Since then, Sinnott was brought to the Columban’s regional house in Manila and was never assigned again in Mindanao.

“For the long time that I’ve been here… it’s been a privileged for me to serve the people of the Philippines and I learned a lot more from them more than I gave, especially from the ordinary people for their goodness and their faith,” he said.

“I also would like to thank the Columbans for their support. We sometimes have an arguments but I have to say that everytime I was in trouble they were always there to help me,” said Sinnott. [RL/CBCPNews]

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