01/23/2017, 10.02
INDIA - YEMEN

Catholics and others in pray for Fr. Tom’s release, Indian Salesian kidnapped in Yemen

by Nirmala Carvalho

A day of prayer organized by the Bishops' Conference. The initiative was also joined Protestant communities. Rev. Thomas Jacob: "Let us pray for him to return home safely." Hundreds of faithful at candlelight vigil organized at Our Lady’s Cathedral Trivandrum.


 

Delhi (AsiaNews) - This weekend the Indian Church held a Day of Prayer for the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the 55 year-old Salesian missionary from Kerala, kidnapped in Yemen last March.

The initiative was also joined Christian personalities of the country, such as the Reverend Thomas Jacob, of  St. Stephen's Church (Church of North India, CNI) in Bandra, in the State of Maharashtra. According to the motto "that they all may be one" [John 17, 21], the local Protestant community united with Catholics accepting the invitation to the prayer of the bishops.

"We prayed that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil may soon be free and safe", Rev. Thomas Jacob stressed to AsiaNews. "May God grant him health. We pray - added the Protestant leader - for it to come home soon. We also pray for his captors, for a change of their hearts and their transformation ".

After months of silence, at the end of December a video was posted online showing Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian Indian kidnapped by an extremist commando attributable to the Islamic State (IS) in early March in southern Yemen. In the video posted online, the clergyman states his name and says, "I may need hospitalisation soon". Reading from a prepared text, he warns that his captors have tried several times to contact the Indian government, the president and the prime minister but "in vain" and that "nothing was done" for his release.

For the past ten months, Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been in the hands of the Jihadi group, likely linked to IS, that stormed a home for the sick and elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. In the attack, four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people were killed.

Called by the Bishops' Conference, at the request of the president of the bishops Card. Baselios Cleemis, the day was held on January 21 and 22 depending on the activities of the individual dioceses. The Diocese of Kohima, the state capital of Nagaland, yesterday celebrated the Day of Prayer.

In a note Fr. Thomas Toretkiu, secretary to the bishop, stressed that the Church in India is "worried and distressed about the fate of Fr. Tom ". Hence the appeal to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the highest authorities of the Government of India, to do all they can to secure the release of a "generous and selfless priest".

Hundreds of people have joined the special prayer, followed by a candlelight vigil, organized by Our Lady’s Cathedral Trivandrum (Kerala) on January 21. An initiative launched in response to the appeal of CBCI President, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, who recalled "the anguish and expectation" of the news of the "release" of the missionary for more than 10 months in the hands of his kidnappers.  

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