By Matters India Reporter
Jalandhar, October 15: The Jalandhar diocese on October 14 joined a prayer program a lay group organized in support of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is now in a jail awaiting trial for allegedly raping a nun.
Bishop Mulakkal headed the northern Indian diocese until Rome appointed an apostolic administrator in September.
However, the administrator, Bishop Agnelo Gracias, stayed away from the program — titled ‘Thyaga Sahana Japmala Yatra’ (Penitential rosary procession) — citing pre-scheduled engagements.
However, Bishop Agnelo sent his secretary Father Thomas, who read out a message from the bishop. The message, in Punjabi, said that Bishop Agnelo wanted to attend the event but he could not due to other programs, and that he was sending his best wishes.
The administrator also noted that the Catholic Church was going through a painful period, and that he wanted Mulakkal to come back soon after getting justice in the case.
Posters of Mulakkal were put up all around the tent, including one on the main stage along with a picture of the Pope and the current bishop.
Earlier, pamphlets announcing the program mentioned a legislator from Kerala as the chief guest of the program. The name of Plathottathil Chackochan George, popularly known as PC George, name was later dropped amid protests from local Catholic.
George, an ardent supporter of Bishop Mulakkal, is facing a criminal case for calling the rape survivor nun a prostitute.
“What has P.C. George got to do with the Church or Punjab? There was no reason to invite him to Punjab. How can he be a chief guest for a religious function in Punjab?” questioned Father Martin Sadiq, diocesan media person who also heads an organization of local Catholics.
The prayer meet, which was attended by more than 1,000 followers, nuns and priests, was held at the St. Joseph’s Boys’ School in Jalandhar’ Defense Colony. It was followed by a rosary procession, which started at around 6:15 pm from the school to the intersection in the city, around 2 km away, and returned to the school premises.
Men, women and Children participated in the procession peacefully without raising any slogans. Organizers said that people from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh had come to attend it.
During his address, Father Xavier said, “We appeal to the community that should not play a judge until the court gives its verdict on Mulakkal.” He said that two resolutions were passed on the occasion, including one against calling Mulakkal guilty until the courts rule in the matter.
Director of Laity Commission, Yunus, said the community should stand united and pray for Mulakkal. He also called on church followers to ignore attempts to tarnish his image.
Several speakers called Mulakkal a “revolutionary” who had taken steps to bring about positive change in the diocese and for the welfare of poor.
“The program is not an institutional program of the Diocese of Jalandhar, but diocese has participated in it because it is organised by the common people of the Catholic church under Laity Commission,” said Father Xavier.
The prayer meet and procession was organised by the Laity Commission and led by its director Yunus. Laity Commission is an independent body of church followers that works under the diocese.