The Salesian Order has confirmed that a video loaded to the Youtube site on Christmas Eve shows Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, the priest of that congregation kidnapped in Yemen last March.
Visibly thin and wearing a long beard, the priest appears in the five-minute video to urge Pope Francis as well as the government of his native India and other Western leaders to secure his release.
“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father, please take care of my life,” he appeals. “I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating. I am in need of hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly.”
Fr Uzhunnalil goes on to allege that his captors have made repeated attempts to negotiate his release with the Indian authorities, but without result.
“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people and would have got me released,” he states. “I am from India and perhaps am not considered of as much value. I am sad about this.”
Fr Uzhunnalil is believed to be in the hands of rebels affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS), which has begun operating in Yemen amid the chaos of the ongoing civil conflict there. The priests was seized during a raid by the group on a Catholic nursing home which saw the murders of four nuns as well as local volunteers.