Salesians in the Bangalore province of India held a prayer vigil Jan. 4 for the release of Salesian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen March 4, 2016.
The prayer vigil, confirmed to CNA by the Salesian province of
Bangalore, marks 10 months since the priest’s abduction during an armed
attack on a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, the
provincial capital of Yemen.
Bangalore provincial superior Fr. Joyce Thonikuzhiyil requested the
11 Salesian communities of South Asia to mark Jan. 4 as “a day of prayer
with an hour of Eucharistic adoration” for the purpose of “intensifying
our prayerful efforts” for the safe release of the priest, according to
religious news site Matters India.
The day of prayer comes after a video was posted to YouTube Dec. 26
of Fr. Tom personally appealing to Pope Francis, and bishops all over
the world, for help.
“Dear Pope Francis…as a father, please take care of my life,” Fr. Tom
said. “My health is deteriorating; I am in need of hospitalization
soon. Please come to my help quickly.”
The five-minute video was the first communication from Fr. Tom since
his abduction. The priest had overgrown hair and spoke slowly from a
Pope Francis did appeal for the priest’s release April 10 after his Sunday Regina Caeli address in St. Peter’s Square.
“I renew my appeal for the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed
conflict zones,” the Pope said. “In particular, I wish to remember
Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Aden, Yemen last
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The Indian
government has reportedly had difficulty brokering for the priest’s
release because of political instability in Yemen.
Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since March of 2015, when Shia
rebels attempted to oust Yemen’s Sunni-led government. Saudi Arabia has
led a pro-government coalition.
Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have
set up strongholds in the country amid the power vacuum. More than
6,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United
Fr. Tom garnered international attention last spring when rumors
spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday.
Those rumors were