On January 21 and 22 the Bishops' Conference has invoked a day of prayer for the liberation of the Salesian missionary. Card. Cleemis: We await with "anguish and prayer," news of his "release", that he is "alive and safe." Salesian Vicar: Amid the difficulties prayer is "essential" to "keep hope alive".
Delhi (AsiaNews) - In order to keep the attention focused on the plight of Fr. Tom, the Indian Salesian priest kidnapped in Yemen in March, the Bishops' Conference has organized a day of prayer January the 21 and 22 next, depending on the activities of the individual dioceses.
In an official note Card. Baselios Cleemis, CBCI president, recalls "the anguish prayer” with which people await news of the "release" of the missionary who has been in the hands of his kidnappers for more than 10 months.
"The Indian bishops' conference - writes the cardinal - is in constant contact with the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and the ministry, asking to speed up the process for the liberation of our beloved p. Tom ". He confirms the rumors filtered in recent days, that would come "assurances" under which the Indian Salesian "is alive and safe."
Card. Cleemis confirms the 'concerns' of the Indian Church and publishes an appeal to authorities to "do everything possible" to secure the release of a "generous and unselfish" man.
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.
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Francesco Cereda, Vicar and Rector Major of the Salesians, says the tday of prayer launched by the Indian Bishops' Conference is an "important initiative". It shows, the priest adds, "the interest of the Catholic Church in India and around the world" for "Fr. Tom’s fate" and although it will not have" immediate effect "it will serve to" keep people aware of those who are persecuted because of their faith. "
The prayer continues Fr. Cereda, "asks God to make His will be done. We pray that our brother be released, but we are willing to accept all of the Lord’s plans. In this sense, prayer has to be at peace with future events. "
On 13 January, the Salesian family also started a novena prayer for the release of Fr.Tom. On January 24 there will be a solemn invocation to Mary Help of Christians "too aid and participate in the release of the Indian priest". The kidnappers recent released of the video confirming that Fr. Tom is still alive is positive. "There are signals - said Fr. Cereda - indicating that there is an ongoing attempt at dialogue; if there are open doors it is better that we do not interfere or disturb. We continue to pray, inviting those who can to continue with the channels of contact. "
"Fr. Tom is not forgotten - said the vicar of the Rector Major of the Salesians - starting from the Salesian family who have mobilized with meditation and prayer. We keep hope alive, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI when he says that prayer is essential in times of difficulty to keep hope alive".