A day after release, Fr. Tom meets Pope Francis in Vatican

Rome: A day after his release from Islamic State terrorists, Keralite Catholic priest Father Tom Uzhunnallil, met with Pope Francis on Wednesday in the Vatican.

Uzhunnallil, who was rescued on Tuesday with the intervention of the Oman government, was abducted by Islamic State terrorists in Yemen in March last year.

He met Pope at Santa Marta residence, after which Uzhunnallil told reporters of his 18-month ordeal in Yemen.

Uzhunnallil kissed the Pope’s hands and touched his feet. Francis hugged the priest, and told that he was praying for him during his captivity, reports said.

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 (Salesian) 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.

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.
(With inputs from IANS)

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