The Missionaries of Jesus on Tuesday continued to defend a bishop accused of rape by a nun, and claimed the complainant had a “relationship beyond acceptable standards with a local taxi driver”. The congregation said its inquiry, set up by the bishop himself, had found that an allegation against the nun, of having an illicit relationship, was true.

The congregation reiterated that allegations against the accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar were false. The statement said the Missionaries of Jesus plans to implead into the proceedings against Mulakkal in the court in his support. It also alleged that a police officer in the investigating team was helping the nun and leaking information to the media.

The congregation said that the nun’s phone should be confiscated so that the “planning behind the conspiracy” can be revealed.

The statement by the Missionaries of Jesus came a day after it criticised five Kerala nuns protesting against the police delay in taking action against Mulakkal. The complainant and the protesting nuns also belong to the Missionaries of Jesus.

One of the protesting nuns told NDTV, “We know these are just many ways of mentally weakening us. The congregation making these allegations, an MLA shaming us, are all attempts to ensure we give up on our fight for justice. That won’t happen.”

Mulakkal claimed the allegations were part of a conspiracy. “I feel there are people who are against the church, they’re using these sisters,” he told ANI. “Police questioned me for nine hours. They took her statement too and there were contradictions. They are studying it as to who’s speaking truth.”

Speaking to News18, the bishop said the allegations were a tactic against the government.

Earlier on Tuesday, reports said the nun had written to the representative of the Vatican in India, seeking action against Mulakkal and calling him a predator. In a seven-page letter, the nun alleged that she had written letters to senior Church officials, including Pope Francis, but got no reply.

The nun described her allegations of sexual assault in the letter and claimed that the bishop was using his “political power and money” to bury the case, India Today reported. The letter was addressed to Giambattista Diquattro, the Apostolic Nuncio – an equivalent of ambassador – to India and Nepal.

The nun had filed a police complaint in June, accusing Bishop Franco Mulakkal of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 in a town in Kerala. She said she had no choice but to go to the police after church authorities ignored her complaints and took no action against the bishop.

Mulakkal has denied the charges and accused the nun of taking revenge against him for ordering an inquiry into a complaint against her. In June, the police filed charges against him.

“I feel this kind of silence on the part of the Church authorities and protection of those who commit the crime may create a situation where the Church loses its credibility before society,” the nun wrote. “It will have a very adverse effect on women in the Indian Church that they have no other option than to react in a manner that safeguards their dignity as human persons even at the cost of losing their catholic faith.”

Five nuns started an indefinite protest on Saturday along with some activists, alleging that the police and church officials had denied them justice and there has not been much action though the complaint was filed more than 70 days ago.