Pope moved meeting rescued Indian priest
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met privately in the Vatican Indian Catholic priest who was freed on Tuesday after his abduction abducted by gunmen in Yemen last year, the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported. The Holy Father met Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil at the papal residence of Santa Marta, after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. After being rescued, the 57-year old missionary was flown to the Omani capital, Muscat, from where he was flown to Rome, where he is recuperating in a Salesian community before heading home to India later.
On first meeting the Pope, Fr. Uzhunnalil went down on his knees kissing the feet of the Holy Father in profound reverence. The Pope reciprocated lifting Father Tom to his feet and kissing his hands. He embraced and encouraged the Indian missionary assuring him he would continue praying for him as he had been doing during his captivity. L’Osservatore Roman said the Pope, “visibly moved, blessed him.” Among several photos circulating on the social media, one showed Pope Francis kissing the hand of Fr. Uzhunnalil.
Born in Ramapuram, in southern India’s Kerala state, Father Uzhunnalil belongs to the Bangalore Salesian province. He ?was abducted on March ??4, 2016 when four unidentified gunmen attacked a care home in Yemen’s ?southern port city of Aden, ?killing 16 people including 4 Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother ?Teresa. The 57-year old priest had been working for more than four years as a chaplain at the care home. ?
Fr. Uzhunnallil thanked the Pontiff saying he “prayed for him every day, offering his suffering for his mission and for the good of the Church.” The Pope was touched by his words, the L’Osservatore Romano reported. The Salesian priest also said he was “unable to celebrate the Eucharist,” but would recite “inside me and in my heart all the prayers of the Mass.”
The Indian priest assured he would continue praying for all who had been close to him spiritually. He particularly recalled the four Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother Teresa and twelve people killed during the attack last year.
Fr. Uzhunnallil was particularly grateful to the government of Oman for obtaining his release. The Holy See, in a communique, has already expressed its gratitude to all those in obtaining his release, especially Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos and competent authorities of the sultanate.
Jesus is great and loves us
Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, who is in the Vatican for the ‘C9’ Council of Cardinals meeting, accompanied the Salesian priest to the Pope. “After this terrible experience, the essential message that Fr. Tom gives is that Jesus is great and loves us,” the cardinal told L’Osservatore Romano. Fr. Uzhunnalil agreed with him saying, “Really, every day, I felt Jesus close to me. I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone.”
L’Osservatore Romano said that Fr. Uzhunnalil will be in Rome in a Salesian community for some time and undergo some medical check-ups. Cardinal Gracias said that the priest was keeping “good” health, adding that during his 18-month captivity he did not have any particular problem and was treated well.
Fr. Uzhunnalil was born and brought up in a devout Catholic family. His uncle Matthew, who died in 2015, was also a Salesian priest, and founded the mission in Yemen, where he served.