Hangop Kabataaan Foundation issued photo shows Irish priest Michael Sinnott celebrating mass in the southern Philippine city of Pagadian. The elderly churchman abducted in the southern Philippines two weeks ago by suspected Muslim separatists is likely still alive but may be unwell, his superiors told AFP on Sunday. Source: AFP

Hangop Kabataaan Foundation issued photo shows Irish priest Michael Sinnott celebrating mass in the southern Philippine city of Pagadian. The elderly churchman abducted in the southern Philippines two weeks ago by suspected Muslim separatists is likely still alive but may be unwell, his superiors told AFP on Sunday. Source: AFP

MANILA: An elderly Irish Roman Catholic priest abducted in the southern Philippines two weeks ago by suspected Muslim separatists is likely still alive but may be unwell, his superiors told AFP on Sunday.
Father Michael Sinnott was taken at gunpoint from his mission office in the city of Pagadian, on Mindanao island, on October 11, two months before his 80th birthday.
Last week the government dismissed rumours that the missionary, who underwent heart surgery recently, had died in captivity.
"I am convinced that he is alive," Father Pat O'Donoghue, the Philippines head of the Missionary Society of Saint Columban told AFP by telephone. "I have reasons for saying that, but I cannot tell you," he added.
"I just don't know how well he is," O'Donoghue said. After two weeks in captivity, "he must be somewhat weak."
No group has claimed responsibility for abducting the missionary. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has rejected government allegations the priest was in the custody of one of its leaders, and has offered to pursue the gunmen.
O'Donoghue said the mission, in coordination with a local government task force, was backing various efforts to get in touch with the kidnappers or at least provide him with urgently needed medicines.
The mission continued to hope that one or more of these efforts "would be successful eventually." He would not elaborate.
The MILF, which is observing a ceasefire amid efforts to resume stalled peace talks, said Sunday it had sought government permission to deploy A "company-size" MILF unit near Sultan Naga Dimaporo town next week to track down the kidnappers.
"As a matter of policy, the MILF is obliged to exert its best efforts to help for the safe and immediate recovery of Father Sinnott," MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said in a statement.
The military earlier said it believed Sinnott was snatched by a pirate and turned over to an MILF commander operating in the area. There was no immediate reaction from the government or the military on the MILF proposal.
O'Donoghue said he felt "the government is not very happy with the MILF taking an active role" in the hostage crisis.