A vicar in the UAE has said he has got “strong indications” to believe that Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian priest who was abducted nearly nine months ago from war-torn Yemen, is alive, a media report said on Friday. The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia said it is making “all efforts to secure a safe release” of the priest kidnapped from Aden in March, Khaleej Times reported.
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A video of Uzhunnalil had surfaced this week in which he made an appeal to the Indian government, Pope Francis and Bishop Paul Hinder, to save his life.
Hinder, who is based in Abu Dhabi, is the current Vicar Apostolic of the vicariate.
“The features of the person speaking in the video bear a close likeness to Father Tom. 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 Father Tom’s present whereabouts, we have strong indications to believe that he is still alive,” the vicariate said in a statement.
The church said it has made countless appeals from the highest levels to secure Uzhunnalil’s release as well as made concrete efforts by way of working in close collaboration with both international and local diplomatic channels, it reported.
“Paul Hinder is in touch with the different channels, which are working and leading the dialogues to secure a safe release. More details cannot be disclosed at this stage,” the statement said.
The bishop has led calls for prayer throughout the churches in the vicariate for Uzhunnalil. During the Christmas mass, the bishop and thousands gathered at the cathedral parish of St Joseph’s Abu Dhabi to pray for the priest’s safety.
“The Salesian Congregation to which Father Tom belongs and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India has been in touch with government channels,” the statement added.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia is a territorial jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church covering the UAE, Oman and Yemen. The office of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia is based at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.
Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresas Missionaries of Charity in southern Yemeni city of Aden.