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Bengaluru, March 5: “Where is Fr Tom? India wants to know,” read several placards at a gathering of more than 1,000 priests, nuns and lay Catholics in Bengaluru, who marked on March 4 the first anniversary of the abduction of an Indian priest in Yemen. The meet was organized to pray for Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnali’s release from captivity. The 58-year-old priest was abducted from a Missionaries of Charity house in Yemen. The Bengaluru gathering marked their solidarity with the priest with a Mass led by Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bengaluru and a candle-light procession.

The Bengaluru unit of the Conference of Religious in India (CRI), Archdiocese of Bangalore, Inter-congregational Effort for Development and several groups jointly organized the program at St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

“Our Faith teaches us that the more we are persecuted, the more will our faith grow,” said Bishop Antony Kariyil of Mandya said in his homily on the Beatitudes.“Quite often we tend to think suffering is the cause of sin, but this is not so. Jesus did not sin, but suffered and his suffering and death brought glory to the cross,” said the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate prelate. According to him, persecution brings people closer to God through the cross.

“Suffering is part of human existence,” he asserted. Observing that the program was held in the first week of lent, Bishop Kariyil said prayer will strengthen the priest in captivity to endure his suffering and remain cheerful. He explained that the values of poverty, mercy and love for the enemy that Jesus preached are not accepted by the world. Hence the world opposes Christians’ engagement in education, healthcare and other pastoral activities. He also referred to the killing of Australian Evangelist missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two minor sons in Odisha, 25 years ago. Kandhamal district in the same eastern Indian state witnessed in 2008 the country’s worst anti-Christian violence.

Sister Rani Maria, a Franciscan Clarist Congregation nun, was stabbed 54 times to death in 1995 at a village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Such persecutions do not deter people from following God, the prelate asserted. Archbishop Moras, who released a memorandum jointly signed by participating organizations, led the candle-light procession. In his message, the prelate said the priest’s continued captivity and suffering have pained the whole Church. The only consolation is the Indian government says the priest is alive. “But we press speedy action in rescuing him from his abductors,” he added. The archbishop urged the gathering to use the lent to pray for the conversion of the priest’s abductors.

The memorandum was addressed to India’s president and prime minister and the chief minister of Karnataka state. Bengaluru is the capital of the southern Indian state. A slide-presentation depicting the events that surrounded the work of Father Uzhunnalil and his consequent abduction was screened on the occasion.

(Source courtesy: mattersindia.com)

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