The Salesian Congregation through its representatives in India, dismissed any unconfirmed report about the whereabouts of Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil, Salesian of Don Bosco, who was kidnapped in Yemen on last March 4 by an allegedly terrorist group that murdered also 16 persons, including 4 Indian sisters of the Missionaries of Charity inside a shelter for elderly people in the port city of Aden. The Salesian presence in Yemen is under the Province of Bangalore, India, leading pastoral programs despite ongoing violence and civil war.
The only formal source of information regarded the case of Fr. Uzhunnalil is the Vatican, the Salesian Indian superiors and the same Indian government, while it is requested to the global media to suspend any unconfirmed report about his situation that could put his life in danger and make difficult his hopeful return.
Fr. Edward Thomas, representative of the 11 Indian Salesian provinces, declared today:
It has come to our notice that some unverifiable and unconfirmed reports have been circulating these days especially in the electronic media on the present status and condition of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who has been abducted in Aden, Yemen, on 4th March by unidentified gunmen. We, Salesians, are not responsible for the content or its authenticity. In this context, we reiterate that till date no further information has come to us from credible and authoritative sources regarding the whereabouts or well-being of Fr Tom. Therefore we earnestly appeal to all concerned to desist from forwarding all such unsolicited and misleading messages and spreading false rumors. In the meantime, let us continue to pray for Fr Tom so that the Lord may protect him from all harm and relieve him from the clutches of the evil forces sooner than later.
Fr. Ángel Fernández, Rector Major of the Salesians, invited people to pray for his return during his message for peace on March 20:
We continue to follow with pain and with great concern, what is happening to our brother Tom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who disappeared and about whom we have no news. I also wish to express our closeness, and our solidarity to his family while we implore from the Lord a deep peace that he may endure this moment trusting in the Lord Jesus.
CNA reported yesterday that Bishop Paul Hinder from Southern Arabia said that he has “strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers,” but could not give further information in order to protect the life of the priest. At the same time he added that Cardinal Schönborn has since corrected his alleged statement, which was made on the basis of an incorrect statement from Archbishop Moras in Bangalore.
The Salesian Headquarters in Rome issued in the last hours a communicate dated March 29:
In reference to the situation of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped on 4 March last in Aden, Yemen, it is confirmed that at the moment there is no further news than what has already been said.
We await news, which we hope will be positive, from those who are following the story more closely: the Indian Government, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia and the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore.
The Salesian Congregation continues to follow the situation with feelings of solidarity and closeness in prayer.