Late on Monday night, the vicar of St Mary’s Catholic Church in Kerala’s Wayanad district agreed to revoke the disciplinary action against a nun who was informally barred on Sunday from participating in church activities for supporting a protest in Kochi last week that demanded the arrest of a bishop accused of rape. Lucy Kalapura, who belongs to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in the Mananthavady diocese, is attached to this church.

Stephen Kottackal, the vicar, agreed to withdraw the action against Kalapura late on Monday night after pressure from lay members of the church. More than 250 parishoners – members of an administrative district called a parish – assembled at the church premises on Monday night and demanded that Kottackal revoke the disciplinary action. “The vicar’s statement on Sunday stated that he was acting based on the requests from the laity,” said parishoner Benny Sebastian. “But the majority of the laity are not party to the decision. So we asked him to allow Kalapura to participate in church activities. He had no option but to oblige to the demand by the majority of the laity.”

Kalapura, 50, told that she was elated by the development. “The laity persisted with their demand as they knew the allegations against me were false,” she said. “It also revealed that the decision to bar me was taken by the vicar and a few of his his associates. I thank the laity for fighting to reinstate my rights.”

Barred from church activities

Kalapura’s superior had, on Sunday, verbally told her not to participate in church activities any longer. She was barred from holding religious education classes, offering holy communion and holding prayer sessions.

Kalapura had earlier asserted that the action against her was intimidation, and the Church had taken action against her to punish her for the support she extended to the unprecedented protest by five nuns from the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kochi. They were demanding the arrest of Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of rape by a member of their congregation. The police arrested Mulakkal on Friday, after which the nuns called off their protest.

Kalapura was present at the protest venue near the Kerala High Court in Kochi on Friday and Saturday, and had also appeared on prime time television debates on Malayalam television channels in which she demanded Mulakkal’s arrest.

She said that she decided to attend the Kochi protest because she was pained to see that the nuns were forced to come out on the streets to demand justice. “The Catholic Church denied them justice and the nuns had no option but to take their protest to the street,” she said. “If I attended the nuns’ protest demanding justice for the nuns, it must be God’s will.”

After the disciplinary action attracted widespread condemnation, the vicar of St Mary’s Church said that he was not to blame for the action against Kalapura. In a press release issued on Sunday, he said: “The laity told me that they do not want Kalapura’s involvement in the activities of the Church. I had conveyed the decision to her superior.”

But Kalapura then said that no one from the parish had wanted her out. “All the 400 families under the parish want me to associate with the church,” she said. “No one from the laity had demanded my removal.”

Kalapura added that the church should seriously consider the words of Sister Anupama, one of the five nuns who protested in Kochi. Addressing a gathering at the protest venue a few hours before Mulakkal’s arrest on Friday, Anupama had said that nuns would continue to desert the Church if it did not end its criminal silence on the sexual abuse complaint against Mulakkal.

“Not just one nun, the entire laity wants to see serious action by the Church against sexual abusers,” said Kalapura. “It will be good if the Church takes serious note of her words.”