Father Tom Uzhunnalil begs Pope Francis for help
By DAVID GIBSON
A desperate videotaped appeal by a Catholic priest kidnapped in Yemen by Islamic extremists last March surfaced over the Christmas holidays, raising new hopes for his release but also concerns about his health and the state of efforts to free him.
Looking thin and wearing a long beard, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil speaks in a halting, weak, almost robotic voice on the video, which was posted to YouTube and Facebook on Christmas Eve.
Members of his Salesian order confirmed the man in the video was the priest.
In the five-minute message, Uzhunnalil pleads with Western nations, the government of his native India, and Pope Francis for urgent assistance.
“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father, please take care of my life,” the priest says. “I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating. I am in need of hospitalization soon. Please come to my help quickly.”
Fr. Uzhunnalil claims his captors have made repeated attempts to negotiate with the Indian government and Catholic officials but he says nothing has happened. “I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard. If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people, and would have got me released,” Uzhunnalil continued. “I am from India and perhaps am not considered of as much value. I am sad about this.”
The priest was taken captive during a brutal attack on a Catholic nursing home in the lawless nation on the Arabian peninsula last March. The ISIS-affiliated attackers shot and killed several local workers and then sought out four nuns who worked there, executing them before destroying Christian symbols in the residence’s chapel.
Fr. Uzhunnalil apparently sought to consume all the consecrated hosts in the chapel tabernacle before he was taken hostage and carted away. His fate was uncertain for weeks.