The Catholic Church’s Jalandhar diocese on Saturday withdrew the transfer orders issued to five nuns who had protested against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, The News Minute reported.

Bishop Angelo Gracias, the apostolic administrator of the diocese, wrote to the nuns to apprise them of the development. “I am giving a directive to the general that she will not issue any letters to the five of you without my explicit permission,” the letter read. “This will be an order to her from me.”

In January, the Catholic Church had ordered four nuns – Alphy Pallasseril, Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, Josephine Villoonnickal and Ancitta Urumbil – to leave the Kuravilangad convent in Kerala and return to the convents that had earlier been assigned to them. The following week, the fifth nun – Neena Rose Edathil – was also asked to report to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation’s Jalandhar convent, where Mulakkal lives.

Gracias said the nuns will remain at the Kerala convent as long as the case is in court. The bishop said he was “surprised and dismayed” to hear about the transfer order issued to Edathil. Four of the nuns had earlier claimed that the orders were part of an attempt to “sabotage the case” and said the church’s move was a form of mental harassment.

The case

The police filed charges against Mulakkal in June after a nun accused him of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kottayam. He was arrested on September 21 after three days of questioning. On October 15, the Kerala High Court granted him conditional bail, and he was released the following day. Mulakkal, who returned to Jalandhar on October 17, has denied all charges.

An internal investigation by the Missionaries of Jesus in September found Mulakkal to be innocent. The organisation has also attempted to malign the complainant repeatedly, once alleging that she was in a relationship with a taxi driver.

In November, reports claimed that the congregation had told the Kerala Police that they did not have the “financial capacity” to protect the accuser.

In January, a collective of eight independent church organisations had asked Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to intervene and stall the transfer orders.