Pope Francis has renewed his appeal for the liberation of people around the world trapped in conflict zones, asking on Sunday especially for the release of a Salesian priest who was abducted in Yemen more than a month ago.
After his weekly prayer with crowds in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff remembered Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil who was kidnapped in Aden, Yemen on March 4 by militants who had murdered four sisters of Mother Teresa’s order.
“In the hope given to us by the risen Christ, I renew my appeal for the liberation of persons trapped in armed conflict zones,” said Francis. “In particular, I desire to remember the Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Aden, Yemen on March 4.”
Uzhunnalil was kidnapped during an attack on a convent and nursing home run by the Missionaries of Charity, which resulted in the deaths of the four sisters and about twelve others.
The pope was speaking after praying the Regina Caeli prayer with pilgrims in the Square.
In words before the prayer, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel story of the risen Jesus appearing to the disciples as they were out fishing for breakfast. The pontiff said that the story’s account of the disciples’ joy at seeing Jesus again shows the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
“The presence of the risen Jesus transforms everything,” said the pope. “Darkness is won over by light, useless work becomes newly fruitful and promising, the sense of tiredness and abandonment is replaced by a new joy and the certainty that he is with us.”
“The church knows with certainty that whoever follows the Lord Jesus shines now with the timeless light of Easter,” said Francis. “The great announcement of the resurrection instills in the hearts of believers an intimate joy and an invincible hope.”
“Christ is truly risen!” the pope exclaimed. “Even today the church continues to make this joyous announcement resonate: joy and hope continue to gush forth in hearts, faces, gestures, words.”
“All we Christians are called to communicate this message of resurrection to whomever we meet, especially those who suffer, who are alone, who find themselves in precarious situations, to the sick, the marginalized,” he said. “To all, we bring a ray of light of the risen Christ, a sign of his merciful power.”
“May all the church proclaim the greatness of [God’s] love and the richness of his mercy,” Francis prayed.
[Joshua J. McElwee is Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.]