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.
Fr. Uzhunnalil said he has no knowledge of who it was that took him or what group they belonged to, but said that “God has been with me.”
“The whole world must have been praying, you all might have made sacrifices. The fruits of all (this) must be that they have not injured me right from the first day,” he said.
From the moment he was taken he was not afraid, he continued. “I said to myself: with the knowledge of God, nothing will happen to me. For Jesus has said, not a hair will fall from your head without the heavenly Father’s knowledge.”
“Those words, that phrase flashed in my mind. Maybe that’s what gave me strength, kept my mind serene, calm.”
In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil was calm, but did become emotional when he noticed the presence of a number of Missionary of Charity sisters, to whom he gave his condolences for the loss of their four religious sisters.
“I'm sure they feel the pain of their loss, but their loss is for themselves and for the world; I am sure that these four who have gone are in heaven,” he said.
Witnessing the death of those in his presence was a very traumatic moment for him. “He didn’t want to speak about that moment,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Sept. 14.
Cardinal Gracias had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Uzhunnalil soon after his arrival to Rome and was present when he met Pope Francis Sept. 13 after the Wednesday General Audience.
Pope Francis was himself very touched by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s expression of faith in their meeting, Cardinal Gracias said. The Holy Father told the priest: “The whole world has been praying for you, everybody has been praying for you.”
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Fr. Uzhunnalil repeated over and over to the Pope that “Jesus is great, Jesus is great.”
In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil recounted a detail from the day he was kidnapped. After the initial attack and killings, which took place while they were having adoration in the chapel, the attackers covered his head and locked him in a car, and then left to re-enter the chapel.
At some point later he heard them return open the door of the trunk and place something heavy near his feet.
His hands weren’t tied, he explained, so he “lifted the cloth, just looked to make sure, and it was the tabernacle.” He knew that it contained consecrated Hosts from the Mass he had celebrated the evening prior.
Although he did not have bread and wine with him in captivity, Fr. Uzhunnalil said he was still able to peacefully pray the Mass every day from memory. He said he would pray to God to spiritually give him the gifts of bread and wine for the Eucharist.
Another line he said he prayed frequently was: “One day at a time, sweet Lord. Give me the grace to live this day. I thanked God for that day. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not sure, so give me the grace to live this day.”