The Indian Catholic Church is called to dedicate this weekend as a thanksgiving for the mercy God has shown Fr. Tom.
Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI) on Wednesday, has made an appeal to the Church in India to celebrate either on Saturday or Sunday, 16th or 17th September, as per the convenience in the respective area as a day of thanksgiving for the safe release of Fr. Tom.
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, a native of Kerala, India, abducted by unknown gunmen in Yemen last year, is now in Rome after 18 months of captivity. He belongs to the Bangalore Salesian province and was serving as a chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother Teresa. On Wednesday Pope Francis met him privately in the Vatican and was visibly moved. Fr. Tom who went down on his knees in profound reverence was lifted by the Holy Father and kissed his hands.
The full text of the Cardinal’s appeal is here below:
Your Eminence/Your Grace/Your Excellency/Dear Rev. Father/Rev. Sister/ Rev. Brother,
“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1) These words from the Psalm come to my lips as we thank God for the wonders he has done for Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil. His great mercy has been shown to all of us who over the last 18 months were praying for the release of our beloved Fr. Tom.
Yesterday (12/09/2017), I had the joy of speaking to Fr. Tom, who is with the Don Bosco Fathers in Rome. He was happy to hear me and has expressed his joy at his release and has thanked everyone for their prayers and their efforts.
While we had already given a Press Statement yesterday from the Secretary General’s Office, I thought it my duty as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to express our heartfelt gratitude to many people, who have worked for the release of Fr. Tom.
We would like to thank the Holy Father Pope Francis, for the personal interest he took in the matter and the Vatican Secretariat of State, who were actively involved in working for Fr. Tom’s release. Our special thanks to the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Qaboos bin Said Al Sayid, whose intervention, we now know, was crucial and decisive. We thank him and pray for his good health.
We are very grateful to our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and our Foreign Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, who tirelessly and gracefully contributed to the efforts of the release of Fr. Tom. Our very deep appreciation goes to the family of Fr. Tom and the Salesian Rector Major and the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore Province, the Salesian Congregation, for their patience and perseverance, despite the frustrating circumstances.
Many people have been praying for Fr. Tom and today their prayers are answered. You will recall that I had given a call for prayer in all our Churches and places of worship on Saturday, 21st January or Sunday, 22nd January. We are grateful for your prayers.
I am now appealing to you to celebrate the coming Saturday or Sunday, 16th or 17th September, as per the convenience in your area, as day of thanksgiving during or after the Holy Eucharist in all our Churches and places of worship. I call upon all our Bishops, Priests, Religious and Faithful and all men of good will to celebrate in worship of thanksgiving, the great and wonderful deeds of Our Lord towards Fr. Tom and all of us.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to my brother Cardinals His Eminences Oswald Gracias, George Alenchery and Telesphore Toppo, all our Archbishops and Bishops for the support and coordination extended to CBCI in its interventions for the release of Fr. Tom. My Special thanks to His Excellency Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, our Secretary General and all the members of CBCI Secretariat for the timely intervention with the Government of India and other authorities concerned for the release of Fr. Tom.
God bless you all!
Yours lovingly in Our Lord,
+ Baselios Cardinal Cleemis
Major Archbishop-Catholicos &
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.