Fr Joyce Thonikuzhiyil sdb, the Provincial of the Sacred Heart Province, Bangalore expresses his gratitude to everyone who were instrumental in the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil sdb.
“I Thank God Almighty.” These were the first words we heard from Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil as he addressed the public for the first time after his release. These are our genuine sentiments too. We thank the Lord together with Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil for the great gift that he has given to us during this year: the gift of his release.
I would like to express our gratitude to so many people who have been in one way or the other supporting us. We would like to remember our Holy Father Pope Francis for the personal interest that he showed in this regard. Thanks to Fr. Artime Angel Fernandez our Rector Major for his fatherly concern and the prudent way in which he assisted us and supported us in this particular situation. Thanks to the Vicar General of the Rector Major Fr. Francesco Cereda who has spared no efforts to lead us all into this present happy moment. Together with him, we thank all the general councillors for their support and prayers.
We very specially thank Mr. Narendra Modi the Honourable Prime Minister of India for taking a special interest in making sure of the release of Fr. Tom. Whenever we Salesians or CBCI or the family members met him he always gave us hope that Fr. Tom will be released and the Government is doing its best in spite of the inevitable hurdles that existed because of the lack of an embassy due to internal problems in Yemen. When the Vice president of Yemen had come to India we were also promised as we could read in the news papers that everything would be done for the release of Fr. Tom. Very special thanks to Mrs Sushama Swaraj the honourable minister for External Affairs, India, for assisting the release of Fr. Tom. Whenever we met her she gave us tremendous hope and authoritative assurance that Fr. Tom was alive and his release and the release of few more other Indians was her topmost priority. And today it is a reality. Thanks to her for her genuine concern and assurance that she always showed in this regard. We are also grateful to Mr. Pinarai Vijayan the honourable chief minister of Kerala and the rest of the honourable ministers and representatives of the people in the legislative assembly irrespective of political parties for showing genuine interest and for all the support and sense of solidarity that they have shown in various ways. We also want to thank Mr. Umman Chandy the former chief minister of Kerala who showed lot of interest in the release of Fr. Tom and who got himself personally involved in the same.
We are grateful to all at the CBCI level starting with his Eminence Cardinal Cleemis the president, Cardinal George Alenchery and Cardinal Oswald Gracious for the timely support and fatherly advice that they gave us. It was so easy to approach them and they always guided us wisely in the best way. We also thank Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia South under whose jurisdiction comes Yemen. We are specially grateful to Bishop Theodore Maschrenas the resident secretary general of CBCI office as he acted as the point of reference for us and as the one put in charge by CBCI to liaison with the government. We are really grateful to him for his approachability and the patience and prudence with which the situation was handled. He too gave us lot of assurance that things can move. Thanks to him as the promised release of Fr. Tom is a reality today.
Our gratitude goes to all people of good will who were involved in the release of Fr. Tom in one way or the other, the entire world, all people of good will irrespective of any possible division, the dioceses and religious congregations that took up the release of Fr. Tom with so strong and faith filled a prayer campaign. Many have fasted and prayed as individuals and as provinces. Many dioceses and congregations had continuous adorations, daily remembrance during Mass as it was here in Bangalore. The Syro Malabar hierarchy had added a new prayer during the prayer of the faithful for daily Mass with the intention of the release of Fr. Tom. So many simple people with profound faith were praying for the release of Fr. Tom. Thank you dear Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Major Superiors of all the congregations for your genuine interest and for your solidarity.
With malice towards none and charity towards all, I would like to thank also the abductors of Fr. Tom for taking care of him and for not ill-treating him. This was something that Fr. Tom told me yesterday while I talked to him. They even gave him medicine when they came to know that he was becoming weak due to sugar problems. Thank you, dear brothers, for your human consideration.
We also thank the Sultanate of Oman for their humanitarian way of acting in this particular situation. Thank you, dear brothers and sisters.
I very strongly believe and I know that we would not have been standing here today thanking God if not for the consolidated effort of the Church, the Indian Government, the Sultanate of Oman and the Salesian congregation together with the prayerful support of the whole world. I would like to put on record our genuine sentiments of gratitude to the Church, Pope Francis, Mr. Narendra Modi our Honourable Prime Minister, Mrs. Sushama Swaraj our honourable minister for external affairs, the authorities of the Sultanate of Oman, Cardinal Cleemis the President of CBCI and Bishop Theodore Mascrenas the resident Secretary General Archbishop Bernad Moras of Bangalore Archdiocese, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime the Rector Major of the Salesian Congregation and Fr. Franceso Cereda the Vicar of the Rector Major. A big word of Thanks to all the fathers, brothers, youth and the people who come under the service of the province of Bangalore.
Finally, in the name of the Salesian Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) I personally thank you fall for the prayerful support extended to us and the efforts you have made personally and in collaboration with others while our dear Fr. Tom was in captivity in Yemen. Fr. Tom was abducted on 4th March 2016 and the eighteen months and eight days of uncertainty that followed were certainly days of pain and anxiety. Your personal and prayerful support was a great source of consolation and optimism for us. Thank you for standing by us and backing us up when we needed it most. Kindly express our sentiments of gratitude to all the priests, religious and faithful of your diocese as well for their fervent prayers. The good Lord has listened graciously to our plea and Fr. Tom is now released. Immediately after his release Fr. Tom has been taken to Rome where he will meet the Holy Father, the Rector Major of the Salesian congregation and other people there who were instrumental in his release. He is staying in our Salesian House in Rome and undergoing medical assessment and treatment. He is expected back in India as soon as his health improves. In the mean time please do continue to keep Fr. Tom and the Salesians in your prayers.
Once again thanking you on behalf of all the Salesians, especially those belonging to the Province of Bangalore and assuring you of our grateful remembrance of you and all your intentions in our prayers.