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Kidnapped Catholic Priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil Freed, Thanks 'God Almighty'

( [email protected] ) Sep 13, 2017 11:15 AM EDT
September 13, 2017: Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Catholic priest kidnapped last March by Islamic extremists in Yemen, has thanked "God Almighty" after being freed from captivity.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil YouTube

Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Catholic priest kidnapped last March by Islamic extremists in Yemen, has thanked "God Almighty" after being freed from captivity.

The news was officially announced by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in a Sept. 12 tweet that read: "I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued."

According to the state-run Oman News Agency, "Father Tom" was reportedly set free after the intervention of the Oman foreign ministry and has already arrived in the Omani capital of Muscat. He is expected to return to his home in Kerala, India shortly, Catholic News Agency reports.

In a statement from Oman News Agency, which was published in the Oman Observer, Fr. Tom had "expressed thanks to God Almighty" following his release.

"In compliance with the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman in coordination with the Yemeni parties have managed find a Vatican priest," the statement read, adding that Fr. Tom "has been transferred to Muscat from where he will return to his home in Kerala."

A statement from the Holy See said Fr. Tom "will remain for a few days in a Salesian community in Rome before going home to India."

In addition to offering thanks to God, the priest also voiced gratitude to Sultan Qabbos as well as "his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends who called on God for safety and release."

As earlier reported, Uzhunnalil was last year abducted by militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group who raided a nursing home run by the Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity group in the city of Aden. The group killed four nuns, two female staff members, eight residents residents, and a guard.

It was initially rumored that the kidnapped priest was going to be executed on Good Friday 2016. However, shortly before Christmas, a five-minute video message was published on YouTube showing the priest looking frail and unhealthy and appearing to read from a script.

In the video, the priest said he felt "sad" that nothing has been done by the government and the church to get him released. Father Tom also said suggested that his Indian ethnicity contributed to the lack of assistance, adding that if he were a European priest, he would have been released already.

"They are treating me well to the extent they are able," he said in English. "My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalization as early as possible."

Since his kidnapping, numerous efforts were made on the part of the government and the Indian bishops to secure his release. CNA notes that prayer vigils and novenas were organized by the Salesians in Bangalore praying for his safety. Additionally, a change.org petition calling on the the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of India to take necessary actions to save Father Tom received over 23,000 signatures.

Pope Francis was among those who campaigned for his release, pleading with Uzhunnalil's captors to release him. In April, the pontiff said that he renews his appeal "for the liberation of all persons seized in areas of armed conflict,"

On Tuesday, the Catholic bishops of India voiced their "immense joy on getting the news of the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil."

"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."

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