13 September, 2017
(Vatican Radio) The Indian Catholic Church has welcomed with huge joy and gratitude the news of the rescue of Indian Catholic priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil on Tuesday, following his abduction by unknown gunmen 18 months ago in Aden, Yemen. He is expected to return to his home in Kerala, India shortly, Catholic News Agency reports.
The Hindustan Times newspaper said the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat, the capital of Oman, after his release.
The Catholic priest from Kerala was rescued in Yemen yesterday, 18 months after he was abducted by Islamic State terrorists during a deadly attack on a care home in the port city of Aden in the war-ravaged country.
In a September 13 letter, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, Major Rector of the Salesian order, said Fr. Uzhunnalil arrived to their community around 6 p.m. September 12, having flown to Rome directly from the Muscat airport in Oman. "We thank all who stood with us in trying times", the newspaper quoted the priest's older brother, Mathew, as saying. The group killed four nuns, two female staff members, eight residents residents, and a guard.
It was initially rumored that the kidnapped priest was going to be executed on Good Friday 2016.
In May this year, a video was posted online showing the priest in poor health, calling for help.
The minister said "no" when asked at the news conference in Thiruvananthapuram whether any ransom was paid for the release of the priest. Father Tom also said suggested that his Indian ethnicity contributed to the lack of assistance, adding that if he were a European priest, he would have been released already.
"My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalisation as early as possible", he said.
Alphons said this in response to questions related to the role of the Indian government in getting the release of the abducted priest.
On his part, Pope Francis embraced Fr. Uzhunnalil and told him that he would continue to pray for him, as he had every day while the priest was imprisoned.
"Release of Father Uzhunnalil yesterday underlines one thing that the Ministry of External Affairs works quietly and without noise, but ultimately gets the work done", said Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs.
Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church to which Fr. Uzhunnalil belongs, said that prayers by millions across the world had helped in the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil from captivity.