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Bishop says man in video resembles abducted priest 

Dubai: The bishop overseeing the Catholic Church’s affairs in Yemen says he has got “strong indications” to believe that the Indian priest abducted in the war-torn county nearly ten months ago is alive.

A video appearing on social media on the eve of Christmas showed a bearded man claiming to be Father Tom Uzhunnalil pleading with the Indian government, Pope Francis and Bishop Hinder to save his life.

The man also alleged that nothing had been done despite several attempts by his captors to negotiate with these leaders.

The 57-year-old Salesian priest was abducted on March 4 by suspected Islamic militants from a Missionaries of Charity center at Aden, a southern port city in Yemen.

Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia told media persons on December 30 that the Church is making “all efforts to secure a safe release” of Father Tom Uzhunnalil.

“The features of the person speaking in the video bear a close likeness to Father Tom. However, the source of the video, the date of its creation and the circumstances under which it was recorded are unknown. Even though we have no information about Father Tom’s present whereabouts, we have strong indications to believe that he is still alive,” the vicariate said in a statement.

The church also said it has made countless appeals from the highest levels to secure Father Uzhunnalil’s release as well as made concrete efforts by way of working in close collaboration with both international and local diplomatic channels, it reported.

“(Bishop) Paul Hinder is in touch with the different channels, which are working and leading the dialogues to secure a safe release. More details cannot be disclosed at this stage,” the statement said.

The bishop has led calls for prayer throughout the churches in the vicariate for the priest. During the Christmas Mass, the bishop and thousands gathered at the cathedral parish of St Joseph’s Abu Dhabi to pray for the priest’s safety.

“The Salesian congregation to which Father Tom belongs and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India have been in touch with government channels,” the statement added.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia covers the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The office of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia is based at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.

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