Father Tom Uzhunnalil reaches Vatican, confirms Sushma Swaraj

Alphons Kannanthanam the new minister of state for Tourism talking to media as he take over charge of his office in New Delhi

Alphons Kannanthanam the new minister of state for Tourism talking to media as he take over charge of his office in New Delhi

In a September 13 letter, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, Major Rector of the Salesian order, said Fr. Uzhunnalil arrived to their community around 6 p.m. September 12, having flown to Rome directly from the Muscat airport in Oman.

On a question when the priest is expected to return to India, the Minister said: "He (Tom) will have to decide that".

Upon meeting the Pope, Fr. Uzhunnalil went down on his knees kissing the feet of the Holy Father in profound reverence.

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"As we thank God for this unique grace bestowed on Fr Tom and his family and the Salesian Congregation (The Society of Don Bosco) and the Catholic Church in India, we pray for his continued good health and complete recovery to resume active Salesian ministry for God and His people in his Congregation and the Church", said a statement by Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, Secretary General, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

Pope Francis embraced and encouraged the Indian missionary assuring him of his continued prayers, just as he had done during Fr. Tom's captivity. The newspaper also said Pope Francis was emotionally moved by the gesture, and helped the priest up and kissed his hands.

Meanwhile preparations began at Father Uzhunnalil residence in Kerala's Kottayam distrcit, to welcome him. The 57-year old priest had been working for more than four years as a chaplain at the care home.

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According to the paper, Fr Tom thanked the Pope said "he prayed every day for him, offering his suffering for his mission and the good of the church".

In comments to L'Osservatore Romano, Fr. Uzhunnalil said he couldn't celebrate Mass while in captivity, but "every day inside, in my heart, I repeated the words of the celebration". Four Indian nuns, two Yemeni staff members, eight elderly residents and a security guard were killed in the attack. Since then, other than a few videos released from time-to-time, there has been no news of Uzhunnallil's whereabouts. The Holy See, in a communique, has already expressed its gratitude to all those in obtaining his release, especially the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos, and competent authorities of the sultanate. During this meeting, the Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracias also accompanied Father Uzhunnalil.

In comments to L'Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that after this "terrible experience, the essential message that Tom is about to convey is that 'Jesus is great and loves us'". "I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone." . The pontiff hugged him, as he told him that he was praying for him since day one of his captivity.

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