A priest who was abducted by ISIS-affiliated militants in May has been rescued.
Fr Chito Suganob and another civilian were recaptured by Philippine troops after a five-hour battle with the militants in the southern city of Marawi on Saturday night.
At a press conference the priest said he was “physically strong and sound” despite his ordeal and urged people to pray for the remaining hostages.
His sister Marilyn Soganub-Ginnivan told UCA News that the family were overjoyed and planning a homecoming party for him.
“We have been praying for his freedom and for the other captives since they were abducted. God answered our prayers,” she said.
An army spokesman said on Sunday that about 40 militants remained and were still holding 80 or so hostages.
Violence in Marawi erupted after a botched army raid on the hideout of an Islamist commander. Militants proceeded to lay siege to the city, burning buildings, attacking soldiers and raising ISIS flags.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law as thousands of residents fled. At least 860 people have been killed since then, according to the military.
Fr Suganob, the city’s vicar general, was kidnapped on the first day of fighting along with a dozen or so Catholics and Church workers after Islamists broke into a cathedral.
He was seen in a video that emerged a week later calling for Mr Duterte to withdraw troops and cease airstrikes.
Another subsequent video showed militants desecrating a church in the city. Statues were smashed and pictures of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI were ripped up. Bishop Edwin de la Peña of Marawi called the attack “demonic”.
During the battle on Saturday night the Philippines army also regained control of a mosque which served as a command centre for the militants. Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said the military would “press on relentlessly”, adding: “We urge the remaining terrorists, especially former hostages turned fighters, to … surrender while they still have time.”
Holy See and Iran hold ‘frank’ talks
The Vatican’s “foreign minister” has said he has held “frank” talks with officials in Iran over difficulties facing Christians in the country.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher said he raised concerns with ministry officials in Tehran. He said they were “complimentary” about the role of Christians but “the rules of the game are very demanding” for Christians.
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