Indian Salesian Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted by Islamic State militants in Yemen and held captive for more than a year, was freed yesterday, CNS reports.
According to Oman’s state-run news agency ONA, Fr Uzhunnalil was “rescued” by Oman authorities “in coordination with the Yemeni parties”.
Upon his release, the Salesian priest “expressed thanks to God almighty and appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos (of Oman). He also thanked his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends who called on God for safety and release,” ONA reported yesterday.
Fr Uzhunnalil was kidnapped March 4, 2016, from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. Four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack.
“We express our deep gratitude to God for the happy conclusion of this incident,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Indian bishops’ conference, yesterday told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
He also expressed the bishops’ “immense gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to Sushma Swaraj, Minister of Foreign Affairs, for having worked tirelessly for the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil. In several meetings, the foreign minister assured us that the (Indian) government would do everything possible to release him.”
Bishop Mascarenhas also thanked Pope Francis, “who has used all his influence” to ensure the Salesian priest’s release.
After his release, the Vatican issued a statement thanking “all those who worked for his release, and especially His Majesty the sultan of Oman and the competent authorities of the sultanate.”
The statement said Fr Uzhunnalil would stay with the Salesian community in Rome for a few days before returning to India.
Born in Kerala, India, the 56-year-old priest had been serving in Yemen for the past four years as a chaplain to the sisters.
Kidnapped Indian priest Fr Tom Uzhunnalil freed after 18 months (Catholic Herald)