The Islamic State group claims it crucified a Roman Catholic priest on Good Friday in its latest attack on Christians. The Rev. Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest, was kidnapped in Yemen this month during a raid on a Catholic nursing home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Fighters with the militant group also known as ISIL or ISIS claimed they killed him just as the Romans killed Jesus, the event that Christians remember on Good Friday each year.
A native of India, Uzhunnalil was taken captive in a March 4 raid that resulted in the deaths of 16 Christian nuns and nurses. His purported death was reportedly confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna. The Indian government said Monday it did not have updated information on the priest’s fate, Newsweek reported.
“The cardinal based his statements on news published on Arabic-language websites. The validity of this information has, however, not been confirmed,” said Michael Prüller, head of media relations for the archdiocese in Vienna, the Mirror in the U.K. reported. “The cardinal doesn’t himself have any sources that have confirmed the death of Father Tom. Thus, for the time being, there’s still basis for hope that Father Tom is alive.”
Friends and supporters of the priest said they did not believe the reports about his death, and Salesian officials in India have urged people to avoid “spreading false rumors.”
“I have strong indications he’s still alive,” said Bishop Paul Hinder, according to a tweet Monday by Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service. Hinder said he doubts the stories of Uzhunnalil’s death. “Nobody knows exactly what is happening,” he told CNS.
— Catholic Herald (@CatholicHerald) March 28, 2016
ISIS has been known to attack Christians and Christian leaders in the past. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused the militant group of committing genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi minority, Shiite Muslims and Christians.