“I would like to join you in prayer for your brother priest Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, who was kidnapped several months ago in Niger, and assure you of the concern and attention of the Holy See regarding this worrying situation”. Pope Francis said this as he received in audience today, in the Consistory Hall, the participants in the General Assembly of the Society of African Missions (SMA), that is being held in Rome from 30 April to 24 May on the theme: “A family faithful to its missionary charism in the changing and complex context of today”. In particular, Pope Francis thanked those present for their “great work of evangelisation” in Africa, especially among rural and isolated populations, where the Christian community is still fragile, or non-existent”. “I also welcome your desire to develop new forms of presence among peoples of African descent in other parts of the world, with particular attention to migrants”, the Pope continued. For the Pontiff, “these new pastoral horizons are a sign of the vitality of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you who impels you to respond to the ever new challenges of the evangelizing mission of the Church, in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel”. “I thank you for your courageous missionary zeal – Pope Francis said – that leads you to reach out and offer to everyone the life of Jesus Christ, sometimes even risking your own life, in the footsteps of your Founding Fathers, the Servant of God Melchior de Marion Brésillac and Father Augustin Planque”.