Kidnapped Irish Priest Freed in Philippines

An Irish Catholic priest kidnapped in the Philippines a month ago has been freed unharmed and Irish authorities did not pay any ransom, the government announced Wednesday night.

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said the Rev. Michael Sinnott "displayed great forbearance in enduring more than a month in captivity, in spite of his age and difficult health."

Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the government would help the 79-year-old priest enjoy "a speedy reunion with his family and friends."

Six armed men abducted the 79-year-old priest Oct. 11 from his missionary home on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, escaped by speedboat, and took him into the jungle.

Officials had feared that Sinnott could suffer a fatal heart attack because he was still recovering from heart-bypass surgery. Rumors persisted that the priest had died in captivity.

Martin declined to detail how the priest won his freedom other than to call the achievement "the successful conclusion of a major diplomatic effort by the Irish and Philippine governments." He also credited the U.S. government, other European Union nations with embassies in Manila, and the International Committee of the Red Cross with playing a role.

The Philippine government said it had received demands from Sinnott's unidentified captors for $2 million in ransom but, like the Irish, stressed that paying anything would only encourage more kidnappings in rebel-threatened Mindanao.

Martin said paying a ransom "would only have jeopardized the vital work of aid workers and missionaries around the world. It would also place other Irish citizens in danger."

At least two other Irish Catholic priests have been targeted by kidnappers in the southern Philippines. In 1987 a priest was held for 12 days by Islamic militants before being released unharmed, but four years later another priest was shot to death when he resisted his abductors.