A Catholic priest kidnapped by radical Islamists in Yemen last spring has personally appealed to Pope Francis for assistance in liberating him.
Salesian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted when four armed terrorists believed to be from the Islamic State stormed a Catholic retirement home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Aden last March. The militants slaughtering sixteen people, including four nuns.
In a five-minute video posted to YouTube on December 26, Father Uzhunnalil asks Pope Francis to intervene on his behalf.
“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father, please take care of my life,” the priest says. “My health is deteriorating. I may need hospitalization soon. Please come to my help quickly.”
The priest also begs the Church and government in his home nation of India to come to his aid, claiming that his captors have reached out several times to no avail.
“Several months have gone by and my captors have made many contacts with the government of India to get me released,” the priest said. “I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard.”
The YouTube video was the first communication from the priest since his capture last March 4, and shows the man with a gray beard and long hair, speaking slowly from what appears to be a prepared script.
“I request also the other bishops all over the world to come to my help to save my life,” Fr. Tom said. “I very much depressed. I request also my fellow human beings of different governments to consider me as a human person and come to my help on a humanitarian level to get me released and save my life.”
“I need your help. Please help me,” he said.
Last April, Pope Francis made a public appeal for the priest’s release after his Sunday Regina Caeli address in Saint Peter’s Square.
“I renew my appeal for the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed conflict zones,” the Pope said. “In particular, I wish to remember Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Aden, Yemen last March 4.”
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the attacks are considered to have been perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, and the sisters reporting on the attack identified their assailants as belonging to ISIS. Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have a presence in the area.
A manuscript prepared by Sister Sally, the superior of the small community, informed her religious superiors of the details of the incident and the report was later shared with all the members of the Missionaries of Charity throughout the world.
The report states that on the morning of the attack, five Ethiopian Christians ran to alert the sisters working at the home for the elderly in Aden that “ISIS was here to kill them.”
Laywomen working at the home reportedly screamed “Don’t kill the sisters! Don’t kill the sisters!” but the jihadists ignored their pleas and killed the laywomen as well.
The letter corroborated the anti-Christian motivation behind the assault, noting that the terrorists “smashed and destroyed” all the religious articles they could find: the tabernacle, altar, crucifix, statues, Bibles, and prayer books.
The Missionaries of Charity were “the only Christian presence” in Aden, the manuscript states, “and ISIS wants to get rid of all Christianity.”
The day after the massacre, Pope Francis called the carnage an act of “diabolical violence,” in a message of condolence for the victims of the attack and their families.
The Pope also said that the four nuns—Sister Anselm, Sister Reginette, Sister Judith, and Sister Marguerite—were “martyrs of today” who “gave their blood for the Church.”
Last September, Francis declared the founder of the sisters’ order, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to be a saint during a canonization ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square.
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