Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was the chaplain of the Sisters of Mother Teresa killed in Aden. He is now in Jihadi hands. So far, nothing is known about his fate. Unconfirmed rumours claim that he will be crucified on Good Friday. The Rector Major addresses the Salesian Family asking for prayers for the victims of sectarian violence.
Rome (AsiaNews) – For Holy Week, in particular, on Thursday after the Eucharist In Cena Domini, the Salesian Family calls on its members and the faithful to pray for the four nuns slaughtered in Yemen and for the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian priest abducted by extremists, said the Rector Major in a video message posted today on the Salesian website. AsiaNews received the rector’s message and shares it with its readers to keep the focus on Yemen’s small Catholic community.
Since 4 March, Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been in the hands of a jihadist group – in all likelihood linked to the Islamic State (IS) group – that massacred four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people in Aden, in southern Yemen.
So far, nothing is known of the fate of the 56-year-old priest born in Ramapuram, near Pala (Kottayam, Kerala) into a deeply Catholic family. His uncle Matthew, who died last year, was also a Salesian, and the founder of the mission in Yemen. Father Tom has been in Yemen for four years.
At present, baseless rumours have been circulating in India about a plan drawn up by the kidnappers to torture, kill and crucify the priest on 25 March to coincide with Good Friday, which commemorates the passion and death of Christ. Nothing indicates that this is true, but it is fuelling fears about the Salesian’s fate.
For their part, the confreres and the Salesian Family have responded by calling for an “intense moment of prayer on the evening of Holy Thursday, when we join with Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane.”
This comes as “We continue to follow with pain and with great concern, what is happening to our brother Tom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who disappeared and about whom we have no news,” writes the Rector Major in his message. At the same time, he expresses “our closeness, and our solidarity to his family”.
Here is the prayer for the martyrs of the faith and for Fr Tom:
My dear brother Salesians,
My dear sisters and brothers of the entire Salesian Family throughout the world,
Dear young people in different places of the Salesian world,
I send you my sincere greetings as we draw near to Holy Week and Easter.
The purpose of this appeal is to invite you all wherever you are in the Salesian world, to make this, a time of intense faith and prayer.
And the reason is this:
The pain which we are forced to undergo in so many parts of the world is too much, as so many people of different religions and confessions are suffering a real martyrdom.
In our Church, a large number of Christian men and women are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus.
The latest drama, as we well know, took place in Yemen, where several people were killed four Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa who died as martyrs, and other lay men and women who gave their lives for their faith, simply because they were there at the end, they also were martyrs, mowed down by a senseless violence.
We continue to follow with pain and with great concern, what is happening to our brother Tom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who disappeared and about whom we have no news.
I also wish to express our closeness and our solidarity to his family while we implore from the Lord a deep peace that he may endure this moment trusting in the Lord Jesus.
Therefore, I invite everyone to spend a very intense moment of prayer on the evening of Holy Thursday, when we join with Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane.
I sincerely hope that all our Salesian Family in the world and our young people in different places and at different times will be united in this one prayer: for peace.
We join with Pope Francis, who continually prays for this peace.
Let us implore peace from the Lord, and ask for infinite eternal peace for the martyrs and the extraordinary power of the Risen Lord for all who suffer so much pain and persecution.
Let us also remember our brother Tom.
Thank you for accepting this initiative and may the Lord bless you.
I greet you from my heart.
The priest, released after 18 months of kidnapping in Yemen, will remain in the Vatican "to secure his wellbeing and allow for his full recovery." Father Tom tried to kiss Pope Francis' feet, who raised him and kissed his hands. "I've always felt Jesus next to me." Renewed thanks to the sultan of Oman. The Major Rector: No ransom was paid.
Fr Cereda confirms the latest reports saying that Jihadi-held Fr Tom is "still alive". He stresses the need to focus on the case, keeping communication channels open and media attention high without pressure or “false hopes”. Meanwhile, Salesians continue to pray, hold Masses and perform Eucharistic adorations for the kidnapped clergyman.
At least 19 people were killed yesterday, from Somalia and Ethiopia. The dead were on a boat with another 180 migrants. Another 50 drowned the day before. For a UN expert, this is a "new trend". As traffickers realise the risks they thrown migrants off the boat.
A source in the vicariate told AsiaNews that the Indian-born mother superior "is out of the country and in a safe place." Nothing is known about the fate of the kidnapped priest. There is hope that contacts can be identified "within two or three days." This Friday, churches in the Holy Land will pray for Yemen’s “martyred nuns". For Maronite Patriarchate in Jerusalem, the nuns are an example of devotion for Muslims.