Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Catholic priest kidnapped earlier this month during a terrorist attack on an old people’s home in Yemen, is “still alive”, a senior bishop in the Middle East said on Tuesday.
Several reports in news outlets linked to the church had on Monday quoted Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna as saying that Uzhunnalil had been crucified by the Islamic State on Friday.
Bishop Paul Hinder, who is in-charge of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen, told the Hindustan Times in a statement that he “has strong indications that Father Tom Uzhunnalil is still alive”.
Hinder, based in Abu Dhabi, said “rumours” about Uzhunnalil’s “crucifixion on Good Friday are spread but nobody provides evidence”.
He said he could not give any information about the efforts to free Uzhunnalil, who has been “in the hands of his kidnappers” since March 4.
Earlier, Hinder told the Catholic News Agency that Cardinal Schonborn had corrected his statement, which was made on the basis of “incorrect” remarks by Archbishop Moras of Bengaluru.
The external affairs ministry had said on Monday that there was “no independent confirmation” about the reports of the priest being crucified.
Uzhunnalil, 55, belongs to Ramapuram village in Kerala’s Kottayam district. He was abducted when suspected Islamic State fighters stormed the old people’s home in the Yemeni port city of Aden on March 4 and gunned down 16 people, including an Indian nun.
The home was being run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday the government is making “all efforts” to secure the release of the priest following his abduction by a “terror group”.
Several Christian groups, including the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, had claimed they had received reports that Uzhunnalil was being tortured and would be crucified on Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.