No information on priest missing in Yemen

No information on priest missing in Yemen

No information on priest missing in Yemen
A day after a Catholic priest was reportedly abducted by unidentified gunmen from a convent in Aden, Yemen, his family members in Kerala said they were awaiting more details of the incident.

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, a 56-year-old Salesian priest from the Province of Bangalore, was abducted after gunmen attacked a  convent and nursing home for the elderly run by Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity. The gunmen killed at least 16 people, including four nuns, one of them — Sr Anselm — from Jharkhand. The priest studied theology for four years at KR Puram in the City and served as a priest for 26 years in Karnataka before taking up charity work in Yemen.

Fr Uzhunnalil, who hails from Ramapuram in Kerala’s Kottayam district, has been in Yemen for close to five years. He chose to serve in strife-torn Yemen despite knowing the dangers he faced, said Fr V M Mathew, spokesperson of Don Bosco Provincial House.

Augustine Uzhunnalil, the priest’s cousin, said family members were communicating with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) but information they received was “sketchy” since India does not have an embassy in Yemen.

“We’ve been asked to pass on details, including his passport number. Since the embassy (in Sanaa) was closed down last year, it’s extremely difficult to ascertain details of the abduction,” Augustine, a lawyer, told Deccan Herald.

Unconfirmed reports said the priest was staying at the convent since the church he was deputed at was burned down in September last year. On its official page, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia says Fr Uzhunnalil was deputed at the church of St Francis of Assissi in Aden.

Salesians of Don Bosco, Province of Bangalore, have been working in Yemen for more than 20 years and the priests have stayed back even after civil war hit the country. Augustine said he could not confirm the church-burning incident.

“But he was living there in conditions extremely trying for a Christian priest,” he said. The priest’s family is also seeking support from the BJP leaders in Kerala to take up the matter with the Centre. Fr Uzhunnalil had last visited his home about a year ago, to attend his mother’s funeral.  The priest has brothers and a sister based in the United States; one of his brothers is settled in Baroda.

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