An Indian Catholic priest was crucified by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) on Good Friday in Yemen, it has been claimed.
A Dubai-based prayer group with close ties to the missionary home in Aden where Father Tom Uzhunnallil was abducted earlier this month reported the priest’s death on its Arabic website.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, referred to the claims in his Easter Sunday homily.
Asked about the reports on Austrian television news later on Sunday evening, the archbishop replied: “We hope that it’s not so, but we have to fear that it’s true”.
The Corpus Christi Dubai report appears to lend weight to earlier warnings that Isil were planning to crucify Father Uzhunnallil on Good Friday, in a grotesque imitation of the fate Christians believe Jesus Christ befell on the same day.
Fr Uzhunnallil, 56, was kidnapped on March 4 by gunmen from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the Aden missionary home where he had been working as a chaplain.
Sixteen people were killed in the raid.
Sister Sally, the order’s mother superior who survived the attack, claimed the gunmen were from Isil, and a neighbour reportedly witnessed militants driving away with Fr Uzhunnallil in a car.
Days later, the South Africa-based Franciscan Sisters of Siessen said on its Facebook page that it had been warned the priest could be crucified.
“Was informed that the Salesian priest, Father Tom who was kidnapped from the Missionaries of Charity Home in Yemen is being tortured and is going to be crucified on Good Friday. This calls for serious concerted prayers from all of us,” it read. The post was later deleted.
The latest reports come just days after Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, said the country was working to secure his release.
“Fr Tom Uzhunnallil – an Indian national from Kerala was abducted by a terror group in Yemen. We are making all efforts to secure his release,” she wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
She had earlier written: “Yemen is a conflict zone. We do not have embassy there. But we will spare no efforts to rescue Father Tom Uzhunnallil.”
The Indian government had received no further information on Monday evening. The Bangalore branch of the Salesian church, where Fr Uzhunnallil lived before travelling to Yemen, and the Indian chapter of the Missionaries of Charity had also not received any word on the priest’s fate.