Yellow Ribbon Project

No Evidence ISIS Crucified Priest on Good Friday, Officials Say

The Bangalore Salesian Society spokesman Mathew Valarkote browses the Facebook page of Indian priest Father Tom Unzhunnalil at his office in Bangalore, India, on March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Catholic Church officials say that despite reports ISIS crucified a kidnapped priest on Good Friday there are indications that Father Tom Uzhunnalil may still be alive.

Father Tom, an Indian priest with the Salesian order, was kidnapped March 4 when militants attacked the Missionaries of Charity Home in Aden as nuns were serving breakfast to the retirement home residents. Four nuns — one Indian, two Rwandan and one Kenyan — were among the 16 people murdered in the attack.

The superior of the convent, Sister Sally, eluded the terrorists by hiding in a refrigerator. Father Tom was staying at the convent, which was ransacked by the trio of gunmen.

Last week, rumors spread across the Internet that Father Tom “is being tortured and is going to be crucified on Good Friday.” Father Tom’s order said they’d obtained no information since the priest went missing and asked for prayers, not the spreading of rumors.

Fresh rumors that the sentence had been carried out began at the Easter vigil Mass of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, where he said ISIS had followed through on the threat. The Archdiocese of Vienna said in a statement today that the cardinal was misinformed.

There have been no photos, video or claims issued by terrorists about any execution of the priest.

Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia told the Catholic News Agency today that he has “strong indications that Father Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers.” Hinder said he needed to be cautious about what information was divulged in order to protect Father Tom’s life.

“Cardinal Schönborn has already corrected his statement, which he had made on the basis of the wrong statement of Archbishop Moras in Bangalore,” Bishop Hinder said. “Certain media in India are too nervous and curious and not aware that they are playing with the life of Father Tom. I cannot say more for the reason I gave.”

Indian government sources told The New India Express that their officials contacted the Vatican, “but there is no confirmation or proof of him being crucified or killed as reported in the U.S. and Austrian media.”

“India is still trying to locate him and verify if he is in is captivity.”

Kerala government Minister KC Joseph said “efforts are on for informal talks with the terrorist group to get the priest released. Details cannot be divulged now,” according to the paper.

“The government is yet to receive any such information” that Father Tom was killed, Joseph added. “Our understanding is that the priest is still alive, though our sources of information are limited.”