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El Salvador priest offers forgiveness to kidnappers

Fr Rogelio Esquivel, who is recovering in a San Salvador hospital after his release by kidnappers following a ransom payment, has sent a taped message to his parishioners in which he forgives his kidnappers.

"In the name of God, I offer forgiveness to my captors, and exhort them to repent and be converted to the love of God," he said.

An unidentified doctor told reporters that the 60 year old priest's hands are injured because he was manacled during the 15 days of his captivity. The priest was also struck on the head at the time of capture, the doctor explained.

Fr Esquivel was kidnapped on 12 August at the end of an evening Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Santa Tecla, 12 kilometres west of San Salvador. He was released at dawn on Monday at a petrol station in the west of the country, after his family paid an undisclosed amount for his ransom.

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said that the kidnappers were demanding a sum of money, recently donated by the churches of Colombia, in exchange for the priest's release.

The archbishop, who did not disclose the amount or source of the funds, said that the donation "was used immediately" in the reconstruction of the church where Father Esquivel worked, which was destroyed by earthquakes early this year.