Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Catholic priest Father Tom Uzhunnallil, rescued from Islamic State terrorists who had abducted him in Yemen in March last year, has reached the Vatican, a Church spokesperson said on Wednesday. Uzhunnallil, kidnapped from a care home in Aden, was brought to Muscat on Tuesday after 18 months in captivity.
Speaking to the media, Father P. Varghese, spokesperson of the congregation to which Uzhunnallil belongs, said on Wednesday that it would take a while for the rescued priest to return to India. “The reason he was flown to Vatican is because the head of the congregation (Celestin) to which he belongs is based there.
“Moreover, the need of the hour now is rest and recuperation for Uzhunnallil, as his health has to be taken care of,” said Varghese. The arrival of Uzhunnallil in the Vatican was also confirmed by the Ministry of External Affairs. Uzhannallil is an employee of the Vatican.
The latest pictures of Uzhunnallil showed him clean shaven. His first picture soon after his arrival in Muscat on Tuesday showed him with long hair and a flowing white beard. The release of the Catholic priest became a reality after the arrival of a papal representative to Oman in August and his meeting with the King of Oman, who took the lead in ensuring the rescue.
In March 2016, militants had barged into the care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Yemen’s Aden and shot dead many people, including four nuns, among whom one was from India. They had then taken the Catholic priest away. Since then, other than a few videos released from time-to-time, there has been no news of Uzhunnallil’s whereabouts.