Ahead of his appearance before the police on September 19, Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a Kerala nun, has asked his deputy Monsignor Mathew Kokkandum to administer the Diocese in his absence even as a group of Catholic priests extended support to the protest by various Catholic reformation organisations seeking justice for the nun.
“As you have probably come to know from the media the investigation into the allegations raised against me as there are several contradictions in the evidence collected against me as per the report of the police and it is reported that I am likely to be called for further clarifications by the investigating officer in Kerala. In my absence Msgr. Mathew Kokkandam will administer the diocese as in the normal practice when I am away from the diocese,” a circular from the accused Bishop read.
Sources, however, asserted that he has neither stepped down from his post nor he appointed anyone the officiating Bishop. Mulakkal is currently the head of St Francis Church in Amritsar district.
On Friday, Jalandhar Police Commissionerate had delivered a summon to the accused Bishop on behalf of the Kerala police. He was asked to appear before the Kerala police on September 19.
What is the Kerala Nun Rape Case?
A Kerala nun had accused the clergyman of repeated sexual assault between 2014 and 2016. She had recently urged the Vatican to intervene in the matter and demanded Mulakkal's removal as the head of the Jalandhar dioces. She also questioned the "silence" of the church, accusing it of "closing its eyes to the truth".
Mulakkal, however, rebutted the alleagtions, saying the charges levelled by the nun were motivated. He also said that there were several contradictions in the evidence collected against him.
Meanwhile, a group of Catholic priests, defying the stand taken by a powerful Bishop body, vowed their support for agitation seeking justice in the case. The Kerala Catholic Bishop Council (KCBC) had slammed the nuns' protest, saying that it has "crossed all limits". The KCBC had also alleged attempts by vested interests and a section of the media to tarnish the image of the church and the bishop community as a whole under the cover of the protesting nuns and said it was "not acceptable."
Defying the KCBC, the group of priests belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church visited the protest venue and assured their moral support to the nuns seeking justice in the case.
Catholic nuns in Kerala’s Kochi city have been protesting against the Bishop for the last eight days. They are demanding immediate arrest of the accused Bishop. The protesting nuns also accused church officials of using a combination of promises and intimidation to scuttle their agitation.
(With inputs from agencies)