A video was released on Boxing Day, showing the kidnapped Salesian priest Fr Tom Uzhunnalil appealing for politicians and church leaders to do all they can to seek his release. It is not know when the film was made. Fr Tom was abducted in Aden in the Yemen in March this year after armed men burst into a care home killing four Missionary of Charity sisters and 12 carers who worked there.
In his statement, which he appears to be reading, in a very flat, sometimes breathless voice, Fr Tom says his health is deteriorating and he may need to be treated in hospital soon. He says: "Because I was working for the Christian religion, for the church, I was kidnapped. Reports have been in the news that everything is being done to get me released quickly, but in reality nothing seems to have happened.
"If I were a European priest I would've been taken more seriously by authorities and people. I'm from India and therefore I perhaps am not considered of much value.
"Dear people, I ask you all, beg you all, to do your might [sic] to help me, to save my life. Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father, please take care of my life."
The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia issued a statement today saying "the features of the person speaking in the video bear a close likeness to Fr Tom Uzhunnalil SDB. However the source of the video, the date of its creation and the circumstances under which it was recorded are unknown. "
"Even though we have no information about Fr Tom's present whereabouts, we have strong indications to believe that he is still alive," the statement says.
The Vicariate has also insisted that "since the day of the abduction of Fr Tom, the Church has made countless appeals from the highest levels to secure his release as well as made concrete efforts by way of working in close collaboration with both international and local diplomatic channels."
Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal to the kidnappers to release Fr Tom on Sunday April 10, 2016, "In the hope given us by the Risen Christ, I renew my appeal for the liberation of all persons seized in areas of armed conflict: in particular, I desire to remember the Salesian priest, Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped at Aden in Yemen this past March 4," he had said.
Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, is in touch with the different channels who are working and are leading the dialogues to secure a safe release. The statement added that more details could not be disclosed at this stage.
The Bishop has led constant calls for prayer throughout the Churches in the Vicariate for Fr. Tom and the few handful of remaining Christians in the country.
During the Christmas Mass on the midnight of the 25th of December 2016, the Bishop and the tens of thousands gathered at the Cathedral Parish of St Joseph's Abu Dhabi, prayed in silence for the safety of Fr Tom.
Throughout the world there have been numerous appeals, calls to action and raising up of prayers from the day Fr. Tom was kidnapped. The Salesian Congregation to which he belongs and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India have been in touch with government channels. Numerous pious associations and groups throughout the world have called for and organized prayer vigils and other demonstrations of public support.
(Gruesome rumours about Fr Tom's death circulating on the internet during Holy Week, proved to be false.)
See the video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AabFjUvIwu8
See earlier reports:
ICN 18 March 2016 Yemen: Church prays for priest missing after nursing home massacre www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29672
ICN 29 March 2016 - Rome: Official statement from Salesians on Fr Tom Uzhunnalil www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29754
ICN May 3, 2016 Yemen: Negotiations continue for release of kidnapped priest www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29994
ICN 20 July 2016 Yemen: Possible image of kidnapped priest posted online www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=30549