Indian priest meets Pope Francis after 18-month imprisonment

Ebony Scott
September 15, 2017

Among several photos circulating the social media, one showed Pope Francis kissing the hand of Fr. Uzhunnalil.

A native of the Indian state of Kerala, Fr. Uzhunnalil belonged to the Bangalore Salesian province, and had been working as a Vatican member at an old age care home set up in Aden by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. He also thanked the family of the priest for "their strength in faith and for perseverance".

Due to the necessity of immediate medical examinations, he was not able to celebrate Mass right away, but he asked if he could go to confession before the medical staff arrived, since he not had the opportunity while in captivity.

"We gratefully thank all those who prayed for the safe release of Fr. Uzhunnalil".

"We would not like to share any more details about this at this time, and will wait for the Government of India to make a statement".

"Father Tom", as he was called, was with the Salesian Congregation (The Society of Don Bosco), and had reportedly volunteered to stay and serve at the home after thousands of Indians were evacuated in the outbreak of violence in Yemen. Cleemis, who is also CBCI president, told AsiaNews. Francis hugged the priest, and told that he was praying for him during his captivity, reports said.

Meanwhile in Ernakulam, Kerala people flocked to St Mary's Cathedral of the Syro-Malabar Church on Tuesday to participate in a special thanksgiving service conducted after the release of Fr Uzhunnalil.

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On Wednesday, the Indian government clarified that there was no ransom paid to the abductors for the release of the priest.

Sr Mary Prema, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, whose sisters had Fr Tom as their chaplain in Aden, issued a statement saying: "I am overwhelmed with this good news".

"Truly, every day, I felt Jesus close to me", Father Uzhunnalil said. He was released from the captivity just a day before. "We give all glory to God and we thank all those who prayed and worked tirelessly for father Tom's release".

Uzhunnalil bowed down to kiss the Vatican leader's feet on Wednesday at Francis' Santa Marta residence, L'Osservatore Romano reported, with the pope "visibly moved".

Fr Tom is now in Rome, staying with a Salesian community there before he flies on to India.

"The Holy See fervently thanks all those who worked for his release, and especially His Majesty the Sultan of Oman and the competent authorities of the Sultanate", read a statement from the Holy See's Press Office, after the news of the priest's release.

Other reports by GizPress

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