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Kidnappped priest has not been crucified, says Yemen bishop

29 March 2016 | by Catholic News Service , Megan Cornwell

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was kidnapped earlier this month by an IS-affiliated group during an attack on an elderly people's home

The bishop responsible for Yemen has confirmed that the priest kidnapped by an IS-affiliated group is still alive, contrary to media reports of his murder by crucifixion.

Speaking from his office in Abu Dhabi, Bishop Paul Hinder, who leads the Apostolic Vicariate covering Oman, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, said he has “strong indications” the priest is “still alive in the hands of his kidnappers”.

He told Catholic News Service he had “no confirmation” of the death of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen on 4 March when a church-run elderly home was attacked and four nuns killed.

Rumours that the priest had been crucified on Good Friday circulated first in India, and then through various groups on social media, including the Franciscan Sisters of Siessan, South African nuns who wrote on Facebook about their concerns for his safety.

In a post dated 20 March one of the sisters said she had been informed “that the Salesian priest, Fr Tom, who was kidnapped by ISIS from the Missionaries of Charity home in Yemen is being tortured and is going to be crucified on Good Friday”. The post has since been deleted.

Leaders of the Salesian order in India, where Fr Uzhunnalil is from, quashed the rumours saying there was no evidence to support the reports. But concern escalated when Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna mentioned during his homily at the Easter Vigil that Fr Uzhunnalil had been crucified.

The archdiocese later posted on their website a statement including quotes from Bishop Hinder and Indian Salesians stating there was no evidence the priest had been harmed.

Bishop Hinder told reporters: "Nobody knows exactly what is happening," adding "I have sufficient reason to doubt" the reports of Father Uzhunnalil's death.

The bishop refused to comment further, saying the situation is "too delicate".
 
 

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