Abducted priest Tom Uzhunnalil released
Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil has been freed by the Islamic militants after being in captivity for 18 months.
External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, tweetted on Sept. 12 to announce the news. “I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she tweeted with a photograph of the priest.
Expressing happiness over Father Uzhunnalil’s release Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, CBCI General Secretary, told Matters India that the church in India is extremely happy. “The news has brought immense joy to the Catholic Church and all the people of India,” he said.
“We thank God for the special grace bestowed on Father Tom and his family, the Salesian Congregation and the Catholic Church in India,” he added.
The CBCI official said that the priest would be taken to the Vatican first and will head to India soon.
According to the state-run Oman News Agency, Father Uzhunnalil’s release was secured by Oman, and he has already arrived in Muscat.
In a statement from Oman News Agency, which was published in the Oman Observer, Father Uzhunnalil had “expressed thanks to God Almighty” for his release.
“Our prayers were finally heard. We thank all stood with us in trying times,” said Father Tom’s elder brother Mathew.
His family thanked both the Indian and Oman governments, and especially Sushma Swaraj, for their efforts. Varapuzha archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil welcomed the news. “It is great relief. We thank everyone who helped us,” he told Hindustan Times.
Uzhunnalil,57, was abducted on March 4, 2016, from a home for the aged and destitute in Aden, a southern port city. Armed terrorists stormed the home managed by the Missionaries of Charity and shot dead four nuns and 12 employees.
Attempts for his release were going on for the last several months. Absence of an Indian embassy in Yemen was one of the major reasons for the delay of his release.
Since the day he was abducted by the militants, there were no confirmed news about his whereabouts.
A section of the media had reported quoting Christoph Schönborn, the Cardinal of Vienna that he was crucified by the IS during an Easter vigil mass.
But the Cardinal , with Michael Prüller, his head of media relations, issued a statement saying: “The cardinal based his statements on news published on Arabic language web sites. The validity of this information was never confirmed.
Pope Francis on April 10 appealed for the immediate release of Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil. People held prayers in many parts of India for his safety.
Father Uzhunnalil is a member of the Bangalore province of the Salesians of Don Bosco.