Bishops in Cameroon demand release of Canadian nun, Italian priests

Yaounde, Cameroon — The Catholic bishops' conference of Cameroon has demanded the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, a month after they were kidnapped by suspected Nigerian Islamists.

The bishops of Cameroon "strongly condemn these inadmissible attacks from extremist groups on church officials and all acts of violence which pose a threat to the dignity of the human person," the bishops said in a statement Monday signed by the conference president, Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala.

The bishops said the April 5 overnight abduction by "well-armed, unidentified people" had "raised fear and consternation within the Catholic Church."

They added that prayer remained the most "unique and effective" option for Christian communities and urged the victims' "speedy and unconditional release."

Frs. Gianantonio Allegri and Giampaolo Marta, both from Italy's Vicenza diocese, and Canadian Notre Dame Sr. Gilberte Bussiere were seized at their parish in Tchere near Cameroon's border with Nigeria. All three had worked for many years in the central African country.

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Church sources said security at religious sites had been tightened after the incident, which was blamed on the Boko Haram group from nearby Nigeria.

The kidnapping was the second involving church personnel from the Maroua-Mokolo diocese to be attributed to Boko Haram, which freed a French priest, Fr. Georges Vandenbeusch, in January.

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