ABDUCTED Fr TOM SET FREE
n Rescued from an undisclosed location in Yemen after 18 months of captivity by isis n Church leaders hail release n To MEET POPE IN ROME & reach India in a few days
13th September 2017, 07:21 Hrs
After more than 18 months of questions and uncertainty regarding the fate of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil following his abduction by militants in Yemen, the priest was finally released from captivity from an undisclosed location in Yemen, with the intervention of the Oman government.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) has expressed its immense joy on the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, who had been in captivity by ISIS since March 2016, and voiced its deep gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for persistently working to secure his release.
The news was officially announced by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in tweet that read: "I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued."
Uzhunnallil, who hails from Ramapuram in Kottayam district, was brought to Muscat, the capital of Oman, on Tuesday morning.
Later, he left Muscat on board a Royal Oman Air force aircraft for an audience with the Pope in the Vatican and reached Rome. The Bangalore Salesian Province, to which the priest belongs, received a a message in this regard. The priest will return to Kerala after spending a few days there.
Fr Tom, a Salesian missionary, first garnered the world's attention when he was kidnapped March 4, 2016, during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four Sisters.
His international profile grew when rumors spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday, which were later discredited. Since then, numerous photos and videos have been released picturing Fr Tom, thin and with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release.
The Salesian Information Agency, which has been keeping tabs on the status of Fr Tom's case, also reported the news of his release.
"As we thank God for this unique grace bestowed on Fr. Tom and his family and the Salesian Congregation (The Society of Don Bosco) and the Catholic Church in India, we pray for his continued good health and complete recovery to resume active Salesian ministry for God and His people in his Congregation and the Church," said CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, in a press release.
"As we express our profound gratitude to God, the CBCI wants to place on record its immense gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and the Government of India for persistently and perseveringly working to obtain the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil."
Bishop Mascarenhas recalled that in different meetings with the foreign minister, "she assured us that Fr Tom was safe and that, the government would do everything to get him released."
"The prime minister too had assured us that all would be done to get him released."
The CBCI also expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis, who took personal interest in Fr Tom's release efforts and Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, the bishop in charge of the Middle East, and the Sultan of Oman, for their untiring efforts, the Rector Major and the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore Province for their patience and strong faith.
"Fr Tom's release gives immense joy to the Catholic Church in India and the Salesian Family and all the people of India and we place on record our gratitude to all for their immense faith in God and persevering prayers that God in his goodness and mercy has heard and answered. We thank all men and women of good will who stood with us with prayer and encouragement," the CBCI Secretary General added.
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