Kidnapped Indian priest receives warm welcome from Kerala Christians after 18-month captivity

An Indian priest who was kidnapped from Yemen in March 2016 and was released after 18 months of captivity has received a warm welcome from Christians, media members, and political leaders in Kerala on Oct. 1.

(Aden Time via REUTERS)Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian priest kidnapped in Yemen, has appealed for help in this still image taken from a video recording, released on May 9, 2017 from an undisclosed location.

On Sunday morning, more than a dozen senior political leaders, a crowd of media members, and many Christians welcomed Father Tom Uzhunnalil as he entered St. Mary's Basilica in Kerala, India, 18 months after he was kidnapped from the Missionaries of Charity center in Aden, Yemen. He thanked the people who prayed for him and revealed that his captors had treated him well, the World Watch Monitor reported.

"Because of your prayers I am with you ... I was under captivity and now I am addressing you," said Father Uzhunnalil.

He added: "Nobody had pointed a gun at me during my captivity ... They never tortured me. They gave me food three times a day even when they were fasting for Ramadan."

In addition, he said his appearances in videos in which he begged for intervention were all "forced." He also said he did not know about the rumors that he was crucified on Good Friday last year, saying he had no access to a newspaper or TV.

After a grand motorcade and a mass which Father Uzhunnalil led, he met with his family at his ancestral home.

Last month, the Vatican's external affairs minister shared via Twitter that Father Uzhunnalil had reached the holy city after being rescued from Islamic State extremists who had abducted him. He was released with the help of Oman's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Indian Express detailed.

Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman, had previously said he would look into the situation of Father Uzhunnalil. He was later brought to Muscat after his rescue was facilitated and was taken back to his hometown in Kerala.