Freed priest to return to Italy on Thursday - govt

The Italian Catholic priest who was abducted by an armed gang in Nigeria last week and released will arrive back in his native city of Florence on Thursday, Italy's foreign minister Angelino Alfano said Wednesday.

"I spoke to don Pallù. He is our embassy in Abujda. His words were full of joy and without bitterness. He will return to Florence tomorrow," Alfano tweeted.

Alfano earlier on Wednesday said he learned from the foreign ministry's crisis unit that Maurizio Pallu had been freed overnight unharmed and was in good health.

Pallu said he was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint last Thursday together with two Nigerians while driving to Benin City in southern Nigeria and made to walk deep into the forest.

Pallu is from the town of Scandicci, 6 kilometres from Florence.

The Vatican said it learned of Pallu's kidnapping with "apprension" and that the Catholic Church was praying for his rapid release.