The Vatican has confirmed this evening that Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil will remain for a few days with a Salesian community in Rome after his release earlier today.
Islamist militants abducted the Indian missionary priest on March 4 last year during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four sisters.
They then held him captive for more than 18 months.
In a statement, the Vatican said Father Uzhunnalil would stay in Rome for a few days before returning home to India, and thanked those who worked for his release, especially the Sultan of Oman and his government.
The news of the Salesian's release was officially announced Sept. 12 by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in a tweet that read: “I am happy to inform that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued.”
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Here below are the full statements from the Vatican and the Indian bishops’ conference.
“This morning, the Rev. Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, S.D.B., was freed after being kidnapped on March 4, 2016 in Yemen.
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.
Fr. Uzhunnalil will remain for a few days in a Salesian community in Rome before going home to India.”
FR. TOM UZHUNNALIL SDB RELEASED FROM TERRORIST CAPTIVITY
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expresses its immense joy on getting the news of the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB who has been in Captivity since March 2016. 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.
As we express our profound gratitude to God, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India wants to place on record its immense gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Srimati Sushma Swaraj the Minister of External Affairs and the Government of India for persistently and perseveringly working to obtain the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil. 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 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expresses its gratitude to His Holiness 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.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Secretary General, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India”