Rome, Italy, Sep 16, 2017 / 11:10 am
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian missionary released this week after 18 months of captivity, thanked Saturday all those who have prayed and made sacrifices on his behalf, saying he recommits himself to the service of God.
“With your prayers and sacrifices you have brought me from God and have brought me here,” he said Sept. 16. “I do not know how to thank you all. May the Lord God bless you and reward you and give you courage to go through whatever difficulties may come as we go on in this world.”
“And one day we will all be together to praise God, that should be our aim, that is actually our aim. May that happen… We all rejoice, thank God for my freedom. I am at the service of the Lord God. Let him continue to use me as he wants.”
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who became known around the world through social media and news outlets as people prayed for his release, spoke to journalists during a press conference at the Salesian headquarters in Rome.
An Indian native, Fr. Uzhunnalil, 59, was kidnapped March 4, 2016 from a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden. In the attack 16 people were killed, including four religious sisters.
Throughout his 18-month captivity, several photos and videos of the priest were released, showing a thin Fr. Uzhunnalil with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release, saying that his health was deteriorating and he was in need of hospitalization.
In the press conference, Fr. Uzhunnalil emphasized that despite the great stress he was under and his inability to move about freely, being kept in one room, his captors did not physically harm him.
He was provided with adequate food and water and even some small amount of medical treatment for his diabetes. He went on to explain that if in any of the videos it appears that his captors hit him, it was not a real blow, but acting which they planned in advance, telling him it was to quicken a response from authorities.