The Vatican on Thursday accepted a request from Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun in Kerala, to temporarily relieve him of administrative duties. On September 16, Mulakkal had written a letter to Pope Francis and sought permission to temporarily step down from his responsibilities at the Jalandhar Diocese.
Mumbai Auxiliary Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gomez will hold the administrative charge with immediate effect in Mulakkal’s absence, confirmed the Catholic Bishop Conference of India in a statement.
The bishop wrote to Pope Francis days after he transferred his administrative responsibilities at the Jalandhar Diocese to a senior official. In the letter, Mulakkal said he needed time to fight his case and to travel to Kerala, where he is being interrogated by the police. He handed over the letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s representative in India.
The Vatican’s decision was welcomed by the nuns protesting against Mulakkal, reported PTI. “We are very happy... the Vatican has finally heard our prayers,” said one of the nuns. “It is the first victory in our struggle against the Bishop.”
Protests erupted outside the crime branch office in Thrippunithura where Mulakkal was questioned on Thursday. Agitations have been on for days, after there was a delay in the Kerala Police acting on the complaint.
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.
Mulakkal has denied the charges and claimed the nun is taking revenge on him for ordering an inquiry into a complaint against her. He filed a complaint against the complainant and five other nuns, accusing them of framing him. The Kerala High Court has deferred hearing Mulakkal’s anticipatory bail plea to September 25.