By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, who has been accused of sexually abusing a nun, has written to Pope Francis for temporary relief from his episcopal ministry.
A September 16 press note from Father Peter Kavumpuram, the public relations of officer of the northern Indian diocese, says the prelate’s move comes in the backdrop of the Kerala High Court’s observation of lack of adequate evidence for the bishop’s arrest “Indicating his innocence.”
The press note claims the bishop has decided on his own to write the Pope expressing his desire to step down from the administration of the diocese.
“He is confident that his request will be accepted,” the 79-word press note in English says.
In another longer press note in Malayalam, Father Kavumpuram said the allegations against Bishop Mulakkal have been sad and painful to both the prelate and to all those who love him as well as the diocese.
“Let us join with prayers in [Bishop Mulakkal’s] hope and desire for God’s will to be done and truth to prevail,” it says.
The Malayalam press note also says the bishop decided to step aside temporarily as he has to travel to Kerala several times spending to attend to the case there.
On September 13, Bishop Mulakkal had written to his priests, nuns and brothers in his diocese that he was handing over the diocesan administration to vicar general Monsignor Mathew Kokkandam.
The police in Kerala had asked the prelate to come to the southern Indian diocese on September 19 to face a second round of interrogation. A police team from Kerala had questioned him in August appear at his residence in Jalandhar, a city in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The diocese covers the entire state.
The case began on June 28 when a member of the Missionaries of Jesus living in Kerala lodged a police complaint alleging Bishop Mulakkal had subjected her to rape and unnatural sex 13 times during 2014-2016.
The bishop has denied the charges, calling them “concocted” and said the nun holds a vendetta against him after he had initiated disciplinary action against her. In interviews with Indian television channels on Sept. 10, Bishop Mulakkal, 54, said he had advised the present superior of the Missionaries of Jesus to act on a complaint from a married woman who said the nun was having an affair with her husband.
Bishop Mulakkal says the allegation against him is “pressure tactics” sponsored by anti-church groups.
Several groups have demanded the bishop’s resignation to help the police to probe the case without interference and pressure.