BY Ian Dunn | September 15 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-FR-TOM

Joy in Scotland as kidnapped Indian priest finally freed

Salesian Sisters in Glasgow join world in celebrating the ‘amazing news’

Salesian Sisters in Scotland are united in joy with Catholics around the world at the release of Salesian priest Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped by Islamic militants in Yemen in March 2016.

Fr Uzhunnalil, an Indian missionary, first came to the world’s attention when he was kidnapped on March 4, 2016, during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four Sisters.

Sr Bernadette Cassidy, of the Salesian community in Easterhouse, said: “As part of the Salesian family we’ve been praying for him daily and this is just amazing news.

“As a worldwide congregation we’ve all been praying, as many Catholics have. So this is wonderful and shows absolutely prayer works.”

 

Rescue

The news was officially announced by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in a September 12 post on Twitter that read: “I am happy to inform that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued.”

The priest’s international profile grew when rumours, which were later discredited, spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday. Since then, numerous photos and videos have been released picturing Fr Uzhunnalil, thin and with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release.

According to the state-run Oman News Agency, Fr Uzhunnalil’s release was secured by the country, and he has already arrived in Oman’s capital of Muscat. The priest is expected to soon return to his home in Kerala, India, via Rome.

In a statement from Oman News Agency, Fr Uzhunnalil had ‘expressed thanks to God almighty’ following his release.

“In compliance with the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman in coordination with the Yemeni parties, have managed to find a Vatican priest,” the statement read.

It relayed that Fr Uzhunnalil ‘has been transferred to Muscat from where he will return to his home in Kerala.’

In addition to offering thanks to God, the priest also voiced gratitude to Sultan Qabbos as well as ‘his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends who called on God for safety and release.’

Pope Francis was among those who advocated on behalf of Fr Uzhunnalil, calling for the priest’s release on April 10, 2016, after his Sunday Regina Coeli address in St Peter’s Square.

“I renew my appeal for the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed conflict zones,” the Pope said. “In particular, I wish to remember Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Aden, Yemen, last March 4.”

 

Prayer vigils

Since Fr Uzhunnalil’s kidnapping, tireless efforts had been made on the part of the Indian government and bishops to secure his release, and numerous prayer vigils and novenas were organised by the Salesians in Bangalore praying for his safety.

It is still unclear exactly which group is responsible for Fr Uzhunnalil’s abduction. Many reports claim that ISIS was responsible, however, the rumours remain unconfirmed.

Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since March 2015, when Shia rebels attempted to oust Yemen’s Sunni-led government.

Saudi Arabia has led a pro-government coalition. Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have set up strongholds in the country amid the power vacuum.

 

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

 

n ian@sconews.co.uk

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