The Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, issued a statement claiming he could confirm that Islamic State jihadists crucified 56-year-old Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Catholic priest, on Good Friday.
Father Uzhunnalil was kidnapped from a home for the elderly run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries for Charity in Aden, Yemen on March 4. The location has been described as “the only Christian presence” in the city of Aden, where the internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has established operations after the Shiite rebels knowns as Houthis took over the nation’s capital, Sanaa.
Four Indian nuns were murdered during the attack on the home by Islamic State militants, along with two staffers, a guard, and eight elderly residents.
The UK Daily Mail reports that several religious groups received threatening messages last week claiming that Father Thomas had been tortured, and would be crucified on Good Friday, but it was Christoph Cardinal Schonborn who confirmed the heinous deed had been carried out.
“It is not known how the Archbishop became aware of Father Thomas’ alleged fate, but his confirmation of the crucifixion during Easter Vigil Mass was reported in Austrian media,” writes the Daily Mail.
It should be noted that as of Monday morning, all reports of the crucifixion source back to the Archbishop’s statement during Easter Vigil Mass.
Several other sources, including Father Thomas’ order, said they had no information on his health or current location. The order has previously dismissed social media postings claiming that the captive priest had been tortured by the Islamic State as unfounded rumors.
The UK Mirror recalls that Father Thomas insisted on remaining at his post in Yemen “even though all but one of his fellow priests had left and his church had been torched by suspected terrorists,” and the Missionaries for Charity home for the elderly had been subjected to repeated threats from Islamist militants before it was attacked earlier this month.
The Indian government has been working to secure the release of the kidnapped priest, but its efforts have been hindered by the chaotic nature of the Yemeni conflict zone, and the fact that the Indian government does not have an embassy in Yemen.
The Islamic State has developed a growing presence in Yemen amid the ongoing conflict there between Houthi rebels and the Hadi government, backed by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda has also strengthened its presence in the area amid the conflict, and was quick to deny any involvement in the attack on the elderly home, describing the attack as “not our way of fighting.”