Pope Francis and other Catholic bishops are
praying for the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil,
an Indian priest thought to have been crucified
by the Islamic State last month, in hope that
radicals will be moved to change their ways.
“Dear brothers and sisters, in the hope given to
us by the Risen Christ, I renew my appeal for
the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed
conflict zones,” the pope told the crowds in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday at the Vatican.
“In particular, I wish to remember Salesian
priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in
Aden, Yemen last March 4,” he added.
Uzhunnalil’s fate remains unknown more than
a month after he was kidnapped during a terror raid on a Missionaries of Charity-run
retirement home in Aden, Yemen, where
suspected Islamic terrorists killed 16 people,
including four nuns.
Although church officials have denied previous
information that IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL)
militants crucified the priest on Good Friday, the
whereabouts and exact situation surrounding
Uzhunnalil is still unclear.
The only information in recent weeks has come
from Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj, who told the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of India that efforts are being made
for his safe release.
“Father Tom is safe and efforts are on for his
release as early as possible,” CBCI spokesman
Fr. Gyanprakash Topno said, conveying the
minister’s words, adding that the “government
will facilitate the priest’s safe return to India.”
His Exc. Mgr. Paul Hinder, OFMCap, Apostolic
Vicar of Southern Arabia, told Fides News Agency that the hope amongst all this uncertainty is that the prayers will reach the
terrorists who are holding the priest hostage.
“There is no news about the kidnapping of
Father Tom. But the appeal Pope Francis
launched for his release yesterday from St.
Peter’s square gave us comfort. Now we hope
it also reaches the conscience of those who
kidnapped him. This is now the important thing,” Hinder said on Monday.
Mathew Uzhunnalil, the elderly brother of the
kidnapped priest, said last week that he is also
counting on prayers and leaving everything in
“I am waiting for clear good news. Until then, I
will stay at home,” the brother told Catholic
News Service last week.
“A lot of people are coming here (to the house)
and even hold prayer meetings (for the safety
of the priest),” he added, noting that he is
spending time in prayer and reciting the rosary.