Archbishop Moras Appeals to All for Release of Fr Tom

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Archbishop Moras Appeals to All for Release of Fr Tom

Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bengaluru made an ardent and impassioned appeal to the Government authorities and to the large gathering to pray for his speedy release from captivity. Archbishop Moras presiding over a concelebrated Mass said nobody knows the whereabouts of Fr Tom. What appears in social media is not reliable. Even the appeal Fr Tom made to Holy Father, Government of India and many others through media is not sure. Archbishop of Abu Dhabi was in the dark about Fr Tom’s situation.

Archbishop Moras who presented a brief narration of the abduction on March 4 last year earnestly asked scores of priests, nuns and lay faithful present to pray fervently for his early release. Being the season of Lent, he invited all to pray for the conversion of the abductors, though no one knows who they are. Temptations and difficulties come our way. The first Sunday of the Lent reminds us Jesus had overcome temptations, unlike Adam and Eve who yielded to temptations. This Lenten period is a time to make us turn towards mercy and pardon from God.

Bishop Antony Kariyil of Mandya diocese gave a brief background of Fr Tom during the homily. He said our first aim should be the release of Fr Tom and also pray for the conversion of hearts of the abductors. Fr Mathew Uzhunnalil, the uncle of Fr Tom, was the one who took him to his Salesian Congregation to become a priest. In 1990, he was in charge of the youth ministry. He left for Yemen in 2010. He returned after four years when he lost his mother. He returned to Yemen in 2015 when the civil war broke out. Fr Tom was aware of the risks and challenges awaiting him. He preferred to look after the spiritual needs of the Mother Teresa Sisters and others there, instead of his own security.

India was not able to establish diplomatic relationship with Yemen and this caused more delay in taking up discussion with concerned authorities. We have often heard about his still being alive and earnest efforts were made for his release by different quarters. He was born in Ramapuram, near Pala, in Kottayam District.

Referring to the reading on Sermon on the Mount, Bishop Kariyil said Jesus presents values such as poverty, mercy and love to inculcate and cultivate in our lives. As followers of Christ, we are expected to walk in his footsteps and in the realm of pastoral, social and spiritual activities. The world will turn against us and will persecute us. Graham Staines and his two children were burnt alive in Orissa in January 1999. So many Christians were killed, persecuted and made to undergo untold suffering in Kandhamal in Orissa. Bishop had visited the place, he said. Some of them left the faith following the diktat of ‘GharVapasi’. The more we are persecuted the more we grow in energy and strength. Sr Rani Maria stood for faith and she was killed. Jesus entered life and experienced the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven after he was persecuted and killed. When we are persecuted, we have another feather in our cap. We should focus more towards the eternal kingdom rather than temporary gains.

We often club sin and suffering. It is not true that suffering comes from sin. They are not connected. In Jesus’ case, he had to undergo suffering and it was not due to sin. It is part of human existence. A new-born infant cries and it is an expression of suffering and pain. The world presented it so. Suffering will remain until death. This is evident from our day to day life. Suffering and human existence are co-related. It is like sunlight and shadow. Our suffering will disappear only on death.

Bishop Kariyil who was principal at Christ College (now University) said late Bishop Emmanuel Pothanammuzhy, Bishop of Manathavady, who died on 6 April 2003, was his classmate and was called in college days as Fr Personality and Dharmendra. He was suffering from cancer and was the bishop for only five years. He considered his disease as a precious jubilee gift on his 50th year of ordination. He took a positive attitude towards suffering. He made all around him cheerful and joyful.

Bishop Antony urged all to pray intently for the release of Fr Tom. Let us hope he would also take his suffering in a positive way and take the path Jesus has shown.

Earlier, Fr Edward Thomas, president, Conference of Religious India (CRI) and convener of the solidarity gathering welcomed the bishops and all others. He described briefly how the programme took shape and how it was meticulously planned and executed. He also explained the importance and purpose of the gathering.

Prior to a candle-lit rally, Archbishop Moras again appealed to all to pray to the Lord as nothing is impossible for him. The Lord will bring this evil to completion and to good. He also urged all to pray during this season of Lent for the Salesian Congregation and Fr Tom’s family members for strength and courage. In conclusion, Archbishop Moras encouragingly said ‘May the Lord’s will be done.

Fr Mathew Thomas, Executive Director, BOSCO, read out a statement in which he narrated details of what had really happened and the subsequent events after Fr Tom’s abduction. He also thanked all concerned. During the candlelight procession, both Bishops, Fr Anthony Swamy, Chancellor, PRO and Parish Priest of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral where the programme was held, besides Episcopal Vicar for Religious, Fr Xavier E Manavath cmf were among others present.

Sr Shobha read out a memorandum, copy of which was sent to the President, Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister, Chief Minister of Karnataka, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Karnataka and Home Minister of Karnataka. Fr Anthony Swamy presented the copies to Metilda D’Souza, Member, Minority Commission, to be handed over to the authorities.

Sr Regina, secretary, CRI, compered the programme. Pericco Prabhu, a leader of social standing, explained the candlelight rally and directed and led the route. The first anniversary of the abduction of Fr Tom in Yemen was organized by CRI, the Archdiocese of Bangalore, ICED Inter-Congregational Effort for Development) and other partners. Before the Mass, a video clipping on the events of Yemen, was screened. Cherian Ramapuram, chairman, BCCRS, delivered the vote of thanks. The anniversary function came to an end with the blessing by Archbishop Moras.

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The Memorandum Submitted to the Ministers, Government of India and Karnataka

Petition on behalf of the people of India for the immediate release of Rev. Fr Tom Uzhunnalilsdb captive in Yemen

March 4,2017 marks the completion of one year Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in Yemen. Fr. Tom is a Catholic priest and an upright citizen of India who has dedicated his entire adult life to the service of humanity, expecting nothing in return. He went to Yemen to alleviate the sufferings of scores of elderly destitute, nobody else would care for, disregarding his own comfort and safety.

News of his abduction sent shockwaves among his family, friends, well-wishers and indeed, the whole country. It was the fervent hope of every Indian that the Government of India would move swiftly to ascertain Fr Tom’swhereabouts and secure his release from his captors. Unfortunately, it is a matter of great disappointment and sadness that he continues to be in captivity even after an entire year. Fr Tom deserves India’s and the world’s gratitude for the selfless work he has been doing. The least India can do is to use every diplomatic lever at her disposal to bring Fr Tom back home, safe.

Periodic news in the social and mainstream media including a recent video showing Fr Tom pleading for his life have left millions of Indians heartbroken but hopeful that he can be brought home safely if only we would try harder.

We, the people of India, humbly request our Government, especially, the President, the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister to do everything possible with the utmost urgency to bring Fr Tom back to India.


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