Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun in Kerala, has written a letter to Pope Francis, seeking permission to temporarily step down from his responsibilities at the Jalandhar Diocese, ANI reported on Monday.
In the letter dated September 16, Mulakkal has said he needs more time to fight his case and to travel to Kerala. The Kerala Police have asked him to appear before them on September 19 for interrogation.
The bishop handed over the letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s representative in India, according to The Times of India.
In June, a nun in the Missionaries of Jesus congregation accused Mulakkal of raping her multiple times between 2014 and 2016. The congregation is based in Punjab’s Jalandhar district but it runs two convents in Kerala – one in Kottayam and the other in Kannur. The alleged abuse took place in Kottayam.
The bishop wrote to Pope Francis days after he transferred his administrative responsibilities at the Jalandhar Diocese to a senior official. In a letter to Church officials dated Thursday, Mulakkal wrote that he was likely to be called for further clarifications by investigating officers in Kerala. He said Monsignor Mathew Kokkandam would administer the diocese in his absence “as is the normal practice”.
A group of nuns has been protesting for the last few days in Kochi against the delay in a police investigation. One of them told Scroll.in they would continue the protest till Mulakkal is arrested as the transfer of responsibilities is a normal practice when he leaves the diocese.
The Missionaries of Jesus said its internal investigation had found Mulakkal to be innocent. The organisation has repeatedly defended Mulakkal, and had also accused the nun of having a relationship with a taxi driver. The bishop also claimed there were “several contradictions” in the evidence collected by the police.