Pope urges kidnappers to release captives, including Salesian in Yemen

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis appealed for the
release of all people being held captive in the world’s battle zones, including
Salesian Father Thomas
Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen.

“I renew my appeal for the liberation of all people
kidnapped in areas of armed conflict,” the pope said after praying the
“Regina Coeli” with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square April 10.

“In particular, I want to remember Salesian Father
Tom Uzhunnalil, abducted in Aden in Yemen March 4,” the pope said.

Father Uzhunnalil was kidnapped from a home for the aged
and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden. Four Missionaries of
Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack.

Born in Kerala, India, the 56-year-old priest had been
serving in Yemen for the past four years as a chaplain to the sisters.

When the situation in Yemen began to deteriorate, two of
the five Salesians, including Father Uzhunnalil, decided to stay in the country
along with a handful of other Catholics despite the risks to their safety, Salesian
Father Francesco Cereda, vicar
of the order’s superior, told AsiaNews March 10.

The Salesians, he said, have been present in Yemen since
1987 and were the only priests working in the Muslim-majority nation. “We understood that
if everyone left, we would have been deprived of the only organized Catholic
presence in Yemen,” Father Cereda had said in March.

The Holy See, the Indian government, India’s Conference
of Catholic Bishops and the Salesian community were all working to secure the
priest’s release, he said.

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