The sudden rescue of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Catholic priest, from the clutches of the dreaded terrorists in Yemen on September 12 is nothing short of a miracle, reports emanating from the Vatican City indicate. The 59-year-old diabetic Salesian priest told Pope Francis that his release from the Islamic militants from an undisclosed location in Yemen was indeed a miracle. The frail and suffering priest had spent 18 months as a captive of the Islamic State in Yemen with many high level efforts failing to rescue him.
In fact, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, who was in Rome, described his meeting with Fr Thomas Uzhunnalil as “a special experience, a moment of grace, a moment of faith”. The prelate said the priest come out of it with an experience of the presence of the Divine Lord. The high point was when he told the Pope ‘just tell everybody that Jesus is great, Jesus is great.’ Just three simple words. That was like the sum of his whole experience, Cardinal Gracias, who spent an hour with Fr Uzhunnalil before he met the Pope said.
What is noble about this whole episode is that the priest is not at all bitter about anything. Particularly, about his captors, he was very understanding. An impressed Pope Francis told Cardinal Gracias late that afternoon that he was surprised with the calmness of the man. He was a man who is perhaps strengthened in the faith after this experience. The priest is no doubt physically weak, but spiritually strong.
At the Don Bosco Salesian House in Kochi, where priests and boarders kept a vigil called it off with a thanksgiving prayer service. Imagine every day, for 18 long months, the inmates of Don Bosco prayed for the fellow Salesian priest till his release. I remember how Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan had hovered on the edge of the final precipice while a team of specialists battled to keep him alive, after an accident while shooting the film Coolie. And how the entire country prayed for his recovery.
Fr Tom will fly back to India on September 28, will call on the prime minister Modi and the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to thank them for the government’s efforts to free him. He will also visit his native place Ramapuram in Kottayam.