Pope Francis yesterday met with Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, a Franciscan nun from Colombia, a day after she was freed by jihadists in Mali after more than four years of captivity, a Vatican spokesman said.
Sister Gloria was taken hostage on February 7, 2017 in southern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso where she had been working as a missionary.
Mali's presidency had announced Sister Gloria's release on Saturday, with a statement on the presidential Twitter account paying tribute to her "courage and bravery" along with photos of the nun taken after her release.
"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," Sister Gloria said, smiling. "I am very happy, I stayed healthy for five years, thank God."
Sister Gloria, 59, was kidnapped near Koutiala, 400 kilometers east of Bamako. She had worked as a missionary for six years in the parish of Karangasso with three other nuns.
One of her colleagues, Sister Carmen Isabel Valencia, said Sister Gloria offered herself in place of two younger nuns the kidnappers were preparing to take.
"She is a woman of a very particular human quality, down to earth, moved by the love of the poor," Sister Carmen said.
Sister Gloria said she was held by an Al-Qaeda-linked group, the largest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.
A source close to the negotiations to release her said she had not been ill-treated during her captivity and had learned the Koran.