The 33-year-old came on as a 70th minute substitute for Gerard Pique to rapturous applause - not just from the Camp Nou faithful but also the traveling Mallorca support.
He pulled off his jersey after the match to reveal a shirt reading 'merci' in a tribute to his cousin who had donated part of his own liver and, after the match, the Frenchman thanked Gerard again as well as targeting a super 2013 with Barca.
"This is special for me after a year out," Abidal told Canal +. "Thanks to my cousin and all the people I met in the hospital. They were all important.
"I can fight, I will always fight - and I'll try to do my best. Let's hope it's a great year. Without my cousin I wouldn't be here. My advice to people with in the same situation is to fight hard, to be grateful to God and to pray a lot."
Abidal's return for Barca after 402 days out marked the first time he has appeared for the Blaugrana since last featuring for them in February 2012, after which he was forced into a hiatus owing to the operation conducted in April.
His appearance against the Vermilions is his first appearance of 2013 as well as his first game under Tito Vilanova's reign.