Kidnap priest retires to IrelandMonday, July 30th, 2012
Irish priest Michael Sinnott is retiring to Ireland and leaving his beloved Philippines after more than 50 years of service.
Fr Sinnott came into the news in 2009 when he was kidnapped but later released unharmed. He took a short break in Ireland then returned to the Philippines.
“I was delighted when I got my appointment to the Philippines, and I’ve never been sorry ever since,” he said at a going-away party on Tuesday.
“It has been a privilege for me to serve the people of the Philippines. Leaving really was a very difficult decision to make. I realised that I’m going home and not coming back, but I still think I made the right decision. I will leave a big part of my heart here in the Philippines.”
Father Michael Sinnott, from County Wexford, was ordained in 1954 and assigned to Mindanao, southern Philippines in 1957 where he stayed until 1966, before being reassigned. He returned to the Philippines in 1976. In 1998, he established Hangop Kabataan (care for youth), a diocese-based rehabilitation program for children with special physical and other needs.
He has been situated in Pagadian diocese that serves 24 towns and one city in the northern and eastern parts of Zamboanga del Sur. About 80 per cent of its 861,184 people is Catholic. Both Pagadian and Fr Sinnott hit the headlines in October 2009. The priest was taking his customary walk after dinner on the lawn of his house in Pagadian City when armed men burst through the gate. They pushed him into a vehicle that was later found burnt in the suburb of Santa Lucia near the sea.
He was held in the forests of the Zamboanga peninsula by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants for a month. There were grave concerns about his health during that month but he was released unharmed. Government and Church officials said no ransom was paid, and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front helped facilitate negotiations for his release.
Father Sinnott later said he never felt in any danger from his captives who said they would never kill a priest.
After his abduction, Father Sinnott wanted to remain in Mindanao, and in February 2010, after a holiday in Ireland, he said he was happy to be back and looking forward to continuing his work at the charity house. The Columbans, however, did not allow Father Sinnott to stay in Pagadian, and Ucan news has reported that he has been in Manila for the past two years.
by Ann Marie Foley