Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Catholic priest abducted earlier this month during a raid on an old people’s home in Yemen by terrorists, was reportedly crucified on Friday, according to an Austrian archbishop.
Several reports in news outlets linked to the church quoted Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna as saying during Easter vigil mass that Uzhunnalil had been executed by the Islamic State just as the Romans had crucified Jesus Christ. The Washington Times too reported on the matter.
However, a senior official of the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi that there was “no independent confirmation” of the development.
Officials of the church in India said they were hoping the reports about Uzhunnalil were incorrect and that he could be rescued. Representatives of the Salesian priest’s order in Bengaluru too have said they have no information on his fate.
Uzhunnalil, 55, belongs to Ramapuram village in Kerala’s Kottayam district. He was abducted when suspected IS 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 Charirty.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said on Saturday that the government was 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 said that they had received reports that Uzhunnalil was being tortured and would be crucified on Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Paul Hinder, who heads the Catholic Church in Yemen, said the Missionaries of Charity home had received numerous threats but its staff had refused to leave.