Indian Salesian priest crucified on Good Friday?
New Delhi: A Salesian priest from India abducted by Islamic terrorists in Yemen was crucified on March 25, Good Friday, Austrian media reported.
However, Salesians in India and the bishop in charge of Yemen have dismissed the report as rumors.
The crucifixion of Father Thomas Uzhunnalil was confirmed by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna during the Easter Vigil at Stephansdom. The Dominican prelate said the 56-year-old Salesian was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. Polonia Christiana is also carrying the news, based on the Austrian reports.
The news also appeared in The Washington Times and Catholic News World on March 27.
“The Islamic State committed a grisly Good Friday commemoration, crucifying a Catholic priest,” The Washington Times report says.
Church groups in India said the Vienna cardinal might have based his statement on a WhatsApp message that began circulating early Saturday. It mentioned the “sad news” that the ISIS terrorists had crucified Fr Uzhunnalil on Friday.
The priest belonged to the Bangalore province of the Salesians. Fr. Mathew Valarkote, secretary of the province, said they have no information about the crucifixion and dismissed the news as rumors. “We will disseminate news in case we have any confirmed reports from credible sources,” told a Matters India reporter.
Bishop Paul Hinder, who heads the Catholic Church in Yemen, also dismissed the crucifixion news as rumors.
The news about crucifixion came as a delegation from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) was planning to meet India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on March 28 to seek government help to release the 56-year-old priest.
Fr Uzhunnalil was abducted by the Islamic State militants on March 4 from a Missionaries of Charity center in Aden, southern Yemen.
Another WhatsApp message a week before Good Friday had indicated ISIS would crucify Fr Uzhunnalil on Good Friday, when Christians all over the world commemorated Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross.
Fr Uzhunnalil was taken by ISIS militants from a Missionaries of Charity center in Aden, Yemen, on March 4 after gunning down 16 people, including four Mother Teresa nuns, who helped in a home for the elderly.
Global efforts to free the priest included attempts by the Vatican and the Federal Bureau of Investigation working with Church groups in the Persian Gulf region for the priest’s rescue. The Indian embassy officials in Djibouti, a North African nation, were also working hard to free Fr Uzhunnalil.