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9 kidnapped from church in Cameroon released

by Sophie Drew
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Nine people kidnapped whilst inside a church in Cameroon have been released. 

The group included five priests, a nun and at least two lay people. They were taken hostage last month after gathering at St Mary's Church in the English-speaking area of the country.The building was then set on fire. 

The names of those kidnapped include Fr Elias Okorie, Fr Barnabas Ashu, Fr Cornelius Jingwa, Fr Job Francis Nwobegu, Fr Emmanuel Asaba, Sister Jacinta C. Udeagha, Nkem Patrick Osang, Blanche Bright, and Mme. Kelechukwu.

The attack was condemned by Catholic bishops in Cameroon; they issued a joint statement describing their "utter shock and horror." 

Following the release of the kidnapped clergy, a second statement was released by the Diocese of Mamphe, celebrating their safe return. 

The statement, from Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe reads: "Permit me use this opportunity to commend your collective efforts at prayer.  Following what has ensured, we too can confidently declare with the English hymnodist, John Ellerton, that 'the voice of prayer is never silent.'

"...I urge each of you to pray a Decade of the Rosary in thanksgiving to God for the safe release of our brothers and sisters who were kidnapped".

He added: "I seize this opportunity, once again, to condemn the act of desecrating the church, in the strongest terms possible, and to decry the need for the enhancement of human dignity."

Initially, the abductors - who claim to be separatist fighters - ordered the church to pay £88,000 ($100,000) for the safe return of the hostages. However, the church said it didn't "even have a dollar to pay for this kind of thing".

The final terms of the release, and whether they were fulfilled by the church, have not been confirmed.

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