Ahead of his appearance before Kerala police, Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a Kerala nun, has written to Pope Francis offering to “step aside temporarily” as the Bishop of Jalandhar diocese.
“The bishop has written a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the diocese,” PTI quoted a spokesperson of Jalandhar diocese as saying.
Bishop Mulakkal’s move came ahead of his appearance before the Special Investigation Team of Kerala Police on September 19 to join the investigation amid protests seeking his arrest.
A Kerala nun had accused the clergyman of repeated sexual assault between 2014 and 2016 during his visits to the Jalandhar-diocese run convent at Kuruvilangad in Kottayam district.
She had recently urged the Vatican to intervene in the matter and demanded Mulakkal's removal as the head of the Jalandhar diocese. She also questioned the "silence" of the church, accusing it of "closing its eyes to the truth".
Mulakkal, however, rebutted the allegations, saying the charges levelled by the nun were “baseless and concocted”. He also said that there were several contradictions in the evidence collected against him.
The bishop had last week handed over administrative responsibility of Jalandhar diocese to Msgr Mathew Kokkandam in his absence ahead of his Kerala visit.
The decision to summon the clergyman was taken last week after a meeting chaired by Vijay Sakhare, Inspector General (Ernakulam range), amid mounting pressure on police to initiate action against Mulakkal.
(With inputs from PTI)