Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan
New Delhi: India’s Catholic bishops Tuesday sought the federal government’s urgent intervention to trace and rescue a Salesian priest who was abducted in Yemen by Islamic militants in early March.
Such a move is necessary as “a lot of rumors are being spread in the social media” that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was “subjected to cruel torture and then crucified on Good Friday,” says a letter the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
The letter, signed by CBCI deputy secretary general Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan, was handed over to External Affairs Minister’s Office by a CBCI delegation on March 29.
Monsignor Chinnayyan said they could not meet the minister who was caught up in electioneering works. However, the ministry officials received the delegation with “great cordiality” and shared the Christian community’s concern over the fate of the priest, the Church official told Matters India.
The bishops’ letter regrets that the “gruesome news” about the priest’s death was “being widely circulated at home and abroad” upsetting Christians in the country and bringing agony to all, especially the priest’s relatives.
The CBCI delegation requested Swaraj to urgently find out the” real fate of Fr Uzhunnalil” and to “adopt all possible means to secure the release of (Fr Uzhunnalil) from the abductors.”
Suspected IS Militants abducted the priest on March 4 from Missionaries of Charity center in Aden, Yemen. The terrorists also gunned down 16 people, including four nuns, who managed a home for the elderly.
The bishops, while appreciating the government efforts to secure the release of “an abducted citizens of India” from terrorists, requested it to verify the “veracity of this disturbing rumor” about the priest’s torture and crucifixion.
A CBCI press note says the ministry officials assured the delegation that the government was “closely looking into all the aspects of a safe release” of the priest.
The press note also said the CBCI headquarters in Delhi has been constantly in touch with the government soon after receiving the news about the priest’s abduction.
The CBCI Centre commended the minister’s “earnest and sincere efforts” to monitor the process of locating the rescuing the priest. “In spite of such sincere efforts, no definite answer could be had till now regarding the whereabouts of the abducted or the motive of the IS militants,” the bishops’ letter regrets.
Meanwhile the Vatican has apparently stepped up its efforts through diplomatic channels for Fr Uzhunnalil’s release, the CBCI letter notes.
The Indian bishops say the Salesian priest has “offered his life for the service of the poor, the sick and the aged,” in collaboration with the Missionaries of Charity nuns.
Fr Uzhunnalil was born on August 18, 1958 at Ramapuram in Kerala’s Kottayam district. He took first vows as a member of the worldwide Salesians of Don Bosco on May 24, 1979 and final vows on June 3, 1986. He was ordained a priest on May 21, 1990.
Hundreds of people have flocked to the priest’s home in Kerala to pray with relatives and friends for the priest’s safety and rescue, reports hrudayavayal, a Malayalam website.
Responses to Indian bishops urge government to rescue IS-held priest
- Isaac Gomes March 29, 2016 19:42 pm
Considering the volatile political scenario in some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East where Christians are being decimated and cultural heritage being wiped out, it would be better for the respective religious authorities not to send their priests and nuns to those places as without the basic safety norms like police protection and consulate assistance, it would be like sending lambs to slaughter in the hope of Evanzelisation.
If at all anybody still volunteers for “encounter with Christ”, modern GPS / GPRS technology must be used including insertion of micro chips. This would ensure regular monitoring of the whereabouts of these priests and nuns, although total privacy might be compromised.
When vocation is at a low ebb, we cannot sacrifice our dwindling resources by deputing them to high-risk zones.