Kidnapped former missionary priest found alive

Rolando del Torchio, 53, was taken at gunpoint after four men entered his pizzeria in Dipolog City.Facebook

A former missionary who was abducted from his restaurant in the Philippines has been found.

Rolando del Torchio, an Italian man who was formerly a missionary priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, was found on Sulu Island in southern Philippines.

The island is a stronghold of the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf.

Five years ago, Father Fausto Tentorio, a former colleague of Del Torchio in Mindanao, was killed.

Del Torchio, who was abducted last October at his restaurant, the Ur Choice CafĂ© in Mindanao, was taken to hospital and then flown to Manila this morning.

After his release, Del Torchio was taken to a military hospital in Zamboanga, and this morning he was flown to Manila on plane chartered by the Italian Embassy.

Father Giovanni Re, regional superior for the missionary organisation, said: "We are very happy for the release of Rolando del Torchio. We hope that he will get better soon, because we were told that he was not doing well."

He added: "From the beginning, we got the impression that he was a kidnapping for ransom. For this reason, we were cautiously optimistic. However, in such cases one never knows how long things will take.

"I know about other people who have been in the hands of kidnappers for more than two years. Del Torchio was held 'only' for six months. I think that the Italian Embassy and Foreign Ministry did a good job through their contacts with local intelligence."

Del Torchio, 57, from Varese, joined the missionary organisation in 1984. He would often risk his life in defence of the rights of farmers and tribals. In 2001, he asked to live outside the organisation and then left the priesthood for personal reasons.