Rapturous homecoming given to freed priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil

Anto Akkara/World Watch MonitorFather Tom Uzhunnalil receives a warm welcome home at the Salesian provincial house

The freed priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who endured 18 months in captivity in Yemen, could not but help shed a tear of relief as he was welcomed home by Salesians in his native India, World Watch Monitor reports.

He was met at Indira Gandhi International Airport by Alphons Kannanthanam, the first Christian inducted into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, along with more than 30 Salesian priests who had travelled from throughout India to meet him and his brother, Mathew, 72, and sister, Mary.

After meeting Modi and Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, he said: 'I am no more a property of the family or the Salesians of Don Bosco. I understand that I belong to the entire world.'

He said he believed his safe release was the result of the millions of prayers offered worldwide.

'There was loneliness during my 18 months of captivity. I had no fear of death [though] I faced tremendous uncertainty. What was going to happen to me? Still I never lost hope. Faith in God and prayers sustained me,' he said in a written statement given to journalists that in the end he was too tired to read out himself.

He also said his captors never tortured or harmed him.

He recovered enough to speak at the end of a thanksgiving Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi and went on to the Salesian provincial house in the suburb of Okhala, before catching a flight on to Bangalore 

Tomorrow, Sunday, he is due to travel to Kochi and then go onto his native parish of Ramapuram, 70km from Kochi.

Father Tom was abducted in March last year when Islamic State terrorists attacked a home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Aden. He was after negotitions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oman. 

Anto Akkara/World Watch MonitorFather Tom Uzhunnalil sheds a tear at his homecoming at his Salesian provincial house