The vicariate responds to the appeal of the Salesian family, launched yesterday by Rector Major. Prayer meetings for kidnapped priest and slaughtered nuns. A special moment of recollection expected at the end of the Mass "in Cena Domini". "Still under strong shock; a thought to the Christians in Yemen who are without a shepherd".
Sanaa (AsiaNews) - The Vicariate of Southern Arabia joins the appeal launched yesterday by the Rector Major of the Salesians, who asked members of the congregation and the entire Christian community to pray for the four nuns massacred in Yemen and for the liberation of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil.
The priest of Indian origin has been in the hands of the jihadist commando for more than two weeks. On March 4, the jihadists - perhaps close to the Islamic State - attacked the compound of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in the south of the country, killing four religious and 12 others .
So far there has been no official word on the fate of the 56 year old Salesian born in Ramapuram, near Pala (Kottayam, Kerala), into a deeply Catholic family. His uncle Mathew, who died last year, was also a Salesian and the founder of the mission in Yemen. Father Tom has been in the Arab country for four years.
During Holy Week and, in particular, on Thursday after the Eucharist "in Cena Domini", the Salesian Family is asking Christians to observe a moment of prayer for this special intention.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr. Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen), stresses that there is still a strong sense of "shock" caused by the "brutal murder" of the nuns. He asks for the "intercession" of the "four martyrs" for the sake of Yemen and the Middle East, for the "triumph of peace and end to the violence."
The prelate confirms that "there is still no definite information" on Fr. Tom’s fate, though "the hope remains alive that it will be released." In the context of the Holy Week celebrations, adds the vicar, "I ask you all to pray" for the Indian priest, especially "during the hours of adoration" that will follow the rituals of the Last Supper.
The vicar has reaffirmed his solidarity and sympathy "to those affected by the events in Aden, to the victims' families, the Missionaries of Charity, the Congregation of the Salesians" and "the few Christians remaining without a shepherd during this time of trial".
Meanwhile, the haggard Christian community still present in Yemen - Fr. George, some nuns and some of the faithful, most of which are concentrated in Sanaa - is preparing Easter celebrations with discretion and in the midst of many difficulties. In the capital there will be moments of prayer, but celebrations will be simple, there will be no large gatherings, to avoid the danger of new attacks. There will also be private moments of prayer in Aden and other areas, held in anonymous locations.
For many families the rites are increasingly similar to those of Muslims during Ramadan, including an Iftar. A catechist admits: "The faithful follow the habits of people around them." Bishop of Faisalabad: There is a lot of confusion, Christian fasting "requires simplicity and inner humility".
Don Paul Thabit Mekko, in charge of the refugee camp "Eyes of Erbil" speaks of Holy Week. The community organizes fundraising and money to be donated to the poorest Christian and Muslim families. The desire to revive traditions and songs of native villages, praying to one day return to their homes. The community keeps hope alive.
According to WHO, almost 74,000 cases of cholera have been reported with more than 600 dead (40 per cent children). Up to 300,000 people are at risk. Every ten minutes a child under five dies. Health facilities are on the verge of collapse. Bishop Hinder calls for prayer and silent help for Christians and Muslims. It's hard to bring aid, but keep attention must be kept alive.