A Columbian nun who was abducted by a group linked to Al-Qaeda four years ago was finally freed last week and had met with Pope Francis on Sunday.
Vatican News reported that Sr. Gloria Cecelia Narvaez is a Columbian nun of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate who was kidnapped in February 7, 2017 by Mali's Islamist militants. The Christian Post explained that it is common for abductions to occur in West Africa, which are often involved with a ransom. The abductions are made by groups linked to either the Islamic State or to al-Qaeda.
Pope Francis greeted Narvaez before the start of the Mass for the Synod of the Bishops in St. Peter's Basilica. Narvaez is described to be in "good health and sparkling good spirits" when she met with the Holy See in testimony to "her immense courage, faith, and fortitude" for withstanding the four years and eight months of captivity by the Jihadists.
The meeting, though brief, was described as the triumph that capped Narvaez' suffering during captivity. In the footage showing the meeting, Narvaez is shown wearing her regular black habit while wearing a face mask with another nun from the same congregation as hers approach the pontiff at the front of the basilica.
Pope Francis held her hand as soon as she was near before he blessed her and consoled her. Though the video does not capture what was said between them, Narvaez' eyes behind her facemask gleamed with joy and spoke volumes of what transpired between her and the Holy See. People gathered around them before Pope Francis left and began the Mass.
Accordingly, Narvaez was in the Karangasso village of the Sikasso Region in Africa working for the poorest of the poor when her abductors came. Narvaez, a former teacher before she came to Mali, assisted in an orphanage, health center, and women's empowerment center in Mali for her congregation. She also taught children and young people during catechism classes while in Mali.
Efforts to request her release were initially unsuccessful. It took a year before the Jihadists released information through a video uploaded online that Narvaez was alive and in good health. In the video, Narvaez pleaded with Pope Francis to intervene for her release.
The Bishops Conference of Mali then in 2018 released its message calling for her release but to no avail. The bishops urged her captors once more in February 2020 to release her through a united day of prayer in Mali.
During her release, Narvaez was met by Mali Interim President Assimi Goita who praised her for "her never wavering bravery." She expressed her gratitude during the meeting and her happiness for being able to stay healthy despite her abduction.
"I thank the Malian authorities, the president, all the Malian authorities, for all the efforts you've made to liberate me, may God bless you, may God bless Mali. I am very happy, I stayed healthy for five years, thank God, " Narvaez remarked on state television.
While the Mumako Archbishop Jean Zerbo thanked all the people who labored for the Columbian nun's release.
"I thank the Authorities and good people, who have brought about her release. We have prayed long and hard for this day," Zerbo said in an interview with Vatican News.