In comments to L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that after this “terrible experience, the essential message that Tom is about to convey is that 'Jesus is great and loves us.'”
He recalled the words of the priest, who after being released said, “Truly, every day I felt Jesus next to me, I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone.”
In a Sept. 13 letter, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, Major Rector of the Salesian order, said Fr. Uzhunnalil arrived to their community around 6 p.m. Sept. 12, having flown to Rome directly from the Muscat airport in Oman.
He said Fr. Uzhunnalil will stay with them for a few days in order to ensure that he has medical treatment and time to rest, and also “to be able to embrace him in the name of all brother Salesians and the entire Salesian family.”
Artime said that while they were aware that discussions were underway with the priest's kidnappers, the community did not know that Fr. Uzhunnalil had been freed until he was already on his way to Rome.
He stressed that “the Salesian Congregation was not asked for any ransom payment,” and said they are unaware of any payment that may have been made to ensure Fr. Uzhunnalil's release.
The rector offered his thanks to the various parties involved in securing Fr. Uzhunnalil's release, as well as all those who kept the priest in their prayers.
Fr. Uzhunnalil's freedom, he said, “is a motivation to continue to respond in the future with utmost fidelity and authenticity to the call and to the charism he has entrusted to us, and to which Fr. Tom has given his life: the announcement of Jesus and his Gospel, preaching to young boys, girls and youth throughout the world, among them, the poor and abandoned.”
In a separate article published on the Salesian Information Agency, it was noted that after his arrival, one of Fr. Uzhunnalil's first requests was to pray in the Salesian community's chapel in the Vatican, and to celebrate Mass.
Due to the necessity of immediate medical examinations, he was not able to celebrate Mass right away, but he asked if he could go to confession before the medical staff arrived, since he not had the opportunity while in captivity.
The article says Fr. Tom was treated to a traditional Indian meal later that night. In sharing his experience with the community, the priest said he never once felt that his life was in danger, and that at one point, his captors provided medicine for his diabetes.
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No official date was given for when Fr. Uzhunnalil will return to India, however, he is expected to go back to Kerala within a few days.