Abducted Indian priest rescued in Yemen after 18 months

Elias Hubbard
September 13, 2017

On Tuesday, the Catholic bishops of India voiced their "immense joy on getting the news of the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil".

Father Uzhunnalil thanked the pope, telling him that "he prayed every day for him, offering his suffering for his mission and the good of the church". The words "touched the Pope", L'Osservatore Romano reported.

Fr Tom was kidnapped when his care home in the Yemeni city of Aden was attacked in March 2016.

Before blessing Father Uzhunnalil, the pope embraced him and said he would continue to pray for him as he had done during his imprisonment.

He expressed special gratitude to the Omani government which helped secure his release, as did the Holy See in a statement released yesterday.

Uzhunnalil told the newspaper that during his captivity, although the was not able to celebrate Mass, he internally said the words every day.

Also present at the meeting was Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, who told L'Osservatore Romano that "after this awful experience, the essential message Father Tom wants to convey is that 'Jesus is great and he loves us'".

In comments to L'Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that after this "terrible experience, the essential message that Tom is about to convey is that 'Jesus is great and loves us'".

Kochi: After 557 days in captivity in Yemen, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was freed on Tuesday, is now put up at room no. 1111 in the Salesian Generalate at Pisana, about three kilometres from Rome.

While Fr. Uzhunnalil appeared with an overgrown beard in the majority of photos published during his time in captivity, today's pictures show him clean-shaven and dressed in clerics.

There were about 80 residents at the home at the time of the attack.

"Truly, every day, I felt Jesus close to me", Father Uzhunnalil said.

A native of Kerala, Father Tom, 57, said he was brought up in the Christian faith by a deeply Catholic family. At the time of his abduction, Father Tom had been in the country for four years.

Since his kidnapping, numerous efforts were made on the part of the government and the Indian bishops to secure his release.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to Father Tom Uzhunnalil and said, "He profusely thanked the Government of India, especially the Prime Minister for efforts to rescue him". "He also conveyed his thanks to the governments and people who helped in his rescue mission", she said in a series of tweets, adding that India thanks Oman and Yemen for rescuing him.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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