SOCIETA’ DI SAN FRANCESCO DI SALES
  Rettor Maggiore

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Rome, September 13, 2017

To my dear Salesian SDB confreres in the world
and my dear Salesian Family in the world

My dear brothers and sisters,
My affectionate greetings to you all on this very special day for us all.

A few hours ago, yesterday afternoon, our brother, Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil, arrived in Rome. About half an hour ago, I myself reached here after a visit to one of our provinces, and now, being provided with more accurate information, I am writing to you to give you all the information we have right now.
It is indeed a great news that our brother Thomas has been released and is now among us.

He arrived last night at 6 pm at the Salesian Community, which provides various services in the State of the Vatican City. Leaving Muscat Airport, Oman, he landed at the Ciampino Airport, Rome, and has since been taken to one of our houses.

I have asked our confreres there to welcome him into the community for a few days. This is for providing for the first medical check-ups and the necessary rest, and to do it in the name of all the Salesian confreres and members of the Salesian Family. Later, when the doctors ascertain it to be appropriate, he will certainly be able to return to India.

There are many aspects we ourselves do not yet know about his release. However, it appears certain that the release and handing over of Fr. Tom took place through a humanitarian agency which is linked to the Sultanate of Oman and in communication with the latter.

As a Congregation, we were informed a couple of months ago about the contacts that were being established with the kidnappers, but without having any further information till we arrived at the present happy moment. In fact, we were aware of his release only yesterday when Fr. Tom was already in Italy.

I feel obliged to tell all of you and the many others who are interested in knowing, that the Salesian Congregation has not been asked to pay any ransom, and we have no news of any payment having been made.

Knowing this for certain, it is natural that we want to express our deep gratitude to His Majesty, the Sultan of Oman, and the competent authorities of the Sultanate, the concerned humanitarian agency and all those who have been involved in this case with so generous a commitment evidenced in different ways and on various occasions.

I want to testify to the great affection and constant concern with which the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore was following the case of our brother Tom and likewise the entire Congregation during these long months of his abduction.

To all of them, to the different departments of the various countries and to their staff, I express with these my words the gratitude of Fr. Tom himself and of all of us, fully aware of what they have all done for the liberation of our brother.

My dear Salesian brothers and sisters, members of the Salesian Family, after what I have just expressed, explaining the human circumstances of this happy event, I want to express my deep gratitude, which I feel in my heart and which is certainly that of all of you too to the Lord, who during all these months accompanied Fr. Tom in the depths of his solitude and perhaps also that of his fears. Thanks be to God, who in His Providence, has provided us with this moment of joy that we are living.

Thanks also to those thousands and thousands who have been praying so long in these eighteen months of the Gethsemane of our brother Tom. The Lord has indeed blessed us with a great Grace. Therefore, in the future we shall continue to respond with greater fidelity and authenticity to His call and to the charism that he has entrusted to us and to which Fr Tom has committed his life: the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel, predilection for the boys and girls as well as the young people the world over, and that especially for the poorest and the most abandoned among them.

Dear Brothers and sisters, we shall continue to thank the Lord for the gift of having Fr. Tom back among us. We shall pray to Mary Help of Christians to accompany and support him, and that she may continue to do in the lives of each one of us all that she has always done in the life of Don Bosco.
Greeting you all with sincere affection.

 

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Ángel Fernández Artime

Rector Major