04/01/2016, 16.19
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Card Gracias: Triduum of Divine Mercy dedicated to Fr Tom, who is still held in Yemen

by Nirmala Carvalho

The archbishop of Mumbai calls on priests, religious, and lay people to pray for the Salesian who has been in the hands of the Islamic State group since 4 March. He hopes that the captive priest will "come back to us" and encourages everyone to “partake in his suffering”. Likewise, he calls for a prayer for the nuns’ murderers so that mercy may “impose limitations on evil”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has made an appeal on the Triduum of the Divine Mercy for the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian Father abducted by a group of extremists in early March in Yemen.

The cardinal has turned "to prayer and mercy" to save the 56-year-old priest ostensibly held by the Islamic State group after gunmen stormed the Missionaries of Charity compound in Aden.

India’s bishops have also appealed to the government, calling for "urgent action" to find a way out of the situation.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Card Gracias, who heads the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) as well as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India-Latin Rite (CBCI-LR) said that the Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis is a "privileged moment".

As part of the Triduum – today, the first Friday of the month, the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and tomorrow, the Immaculate Heart of Mary tomorrow –, the cardinal calls on "prayer groups, parishes, religious institutes, chapels and monasteries, but also private homes "to pray for Fr Tom.

"I pray that each of us entrust Fr Tom to the Divine Mercy,” Card Gracias said. “I also ask you to pray that he may safely come back to us, and I encourage all of you to partake in his suffering. Let us ask that he may soon regain his freedom."

“Saint Pope John Paul II said that only Divine Mercy is able to impose limitations on evil.” Therefore, “Let us pray through Mary, Mother of Mercy also for those who perpetrated the barbaric killing of our 4 missionaries of charity and kidnapped Fr Tom.”

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been in the hands of Jihadis since 4 March. His kidnappers are probably linked to the Islamic State group. When the gunmen stormed the home for the sick and elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, southern Yemen, they killed four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people present in the building.

So far, nothing is known of the fate of the 56-year-old priest born in Ramapuram, near Pala (Kottayam, Kerala), into a deeply Catholic family. His uncle Matthew, who died last year, was also a Salesian, and the founder of the mission in Yemen. Father Tom has been in Yemen for four years.

At the start of last week, baseless rumours began circulating in India about a plan drawn up by the kidnappers to torture, kill and crucify the priest on 25 March to coincide with Good Friday, which commemorates the passion and death of Christ. Nothing indicates that this occurred, but it has fuelled fears about the Salesian’s fate.

In view of the situation, the Salesian Family responded by calling for prayers on Holy Thursday, and during the main Easter celebrations.

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