A Catholic priest of the Syro Malabar Church in Ernakulam district in Kerala has been booked for allegedly sexually assaulting three nine-year-old girls, The News Minute reported on Friday. A case has been registered against 68-year-old Father George Padayattil, the vicar of the Holy Cross Church in Chendamangalam.

Officers at the Vadakkekkara Police Station in Ernakulam told the news website that the priest touched the girls inappropriately. “The incidents happened last month when the girls went to the priest’s ‘meda’, the place where he stays alongside the church, to get his blessings after Sunday rites,” a police officer said. “According to the complaint, the girls revealed that he touched them inappropriately during two such incidents.”

One of the girls reported the incident to her school teacher. The school teacher informed Childline, following which it was communicated to the police. The three girls are classmates, the police officer added.

Father Padayattil has been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. “The children gave their statement to the judicial magistrate under oath,” the police officer said. “The case was charged after that. We are waiting to receive a copy of the statement, following which we will increase the charges against him.”

In July, another priest in Ernakulam district belonging to the Carmelites Order under the Kochi diocese was accused of raping six minors at a boys’ home. He has been arrested.

In June 2018, the Kerala Police had filed a case against Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was accused of raping a nun of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The congregation is based in Punjab’s Jalandhar district but it runs two convents in Kerala’s Kottayam and Kannur districts. The alleged abuse took place in Kottayam.

Mulakkal, who is now in jail and is facing rape charges, has denied that he committed the offence.

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