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Behind the sensational headlines conflicting reports have emerged — and it must be emphasized that there has been no confirmation yet by his family, or the Vatican, or his religious community — but some news outlets (all basing their stories on a single American blog post translating from Viennese and Polish sources) are reporting that Salesian priest Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday.
Fr. Uzhunnalil, 56, who is from Kerala, was taken by Islamist gunmen reportedly linked to ISIS, who attacked a home for the elderly in Aden, southern Yemen, on March 4. The terrorists murdered 16 people, including four Missionaries of Charity.
According to an eyewitness report detailing the brutality the sisters suffered, Fr. Uzhunnalil was residing on campus, because the church in town where he was based had been sacked and burned last September. The Salesian priest “heard the screaming and consumed all the Hosts,” the account noted. However, “he had no time to consume the large Host, so he threw the oil out of the sanctuary lamp and dissolved it in the water.”
The letter reported that a neighbor saw the terrorists put the priest into their car. “They did not find any trace of Father anywhere.”
The reports of Fr. Uzhunnalil’s death began after Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (allegedly) announced it during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna.
Aleteia is seeking confirmation of the story. Just moments ago on Twitter, veteran Catholic reporter Cindy Wooden posted:
UPDATE: This statement from the Facebook page of the Diocese of Bombay:
FR. TOM UZHUNNALIL, SALESIAN PRIEST KIDNAPPED BY ISIS
Over the past few days there have been several Whatsapp messages, blogs and media outlets that have been reporting that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday.
There has been no confirmation of this by friends, family or Fr. Uzhunnalil’s community. The reports being circulated are based on an alleged statement by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, during the Easter Vigil services. Rumours of a possible impending crucifixion had also been spread last week on the basis of an unconfirmed e-mail and were dismissed by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s Salesian community as hearsay.
Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped, told Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Monday that he has “strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers.”
We request people to please stop forwarding unconfirmed reports, as this might jeopardise Fr. Tom’s safety. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.