New Delhi, India, Apr 6, 2016 / 16:29 pm
After rampant rumors spread of the crucifixion of kidnapped priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian government official told the nation's bishops on Saturday that the priest is alive and that they are working on ensuring his safe and quick return.
Fr. Uzhunnalil, an Indian national, was abducted last month when four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including four Missionary of Charity sisters. The attacks are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, though no group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have a presence in the area.
During Holy Week, several blogs and media outlets reported that Fr. Tom was crucified by Islamic State militants on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family, or Fr. Uzhunnalil's Salesian community, and the bishop of the local Church dismissed the rumors.
On March 28, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) wrote a letter to India's Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, urging greater efforts in locating the priest and for further information to clarify his whereabouts and to quell the rumors of crucifixion. A CBCI delegation then met with Swaraj at her office Saturday.