In a surprising but much-needed and long overdue admission, a member of the Catholic Church has come out with public statements justifying the actions of the nuns who protested recently in Kochi demanding the arrest of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, and apologising for the damage caused by the actions of a few Church leaders.
On 2 October, at the Santhome Abhishekagni Bible Convention held at the Thyagaraj Stadium in Delhi, Archbishop Mar Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of the Delhi-Faridabad Diocese publicly apologised for the crises currently gripping the Catholic Church, particularly in India. Naming a series of controversies that have rocked the Catholic Church since the Convention was held last year, such as the land deal scam, the controversies around priests misusing confessions, allegations of sexual abuse by priests, the recent strike by a group of nuns in Kerala, the punishment of an American cardinal, and the sexual abuse report of the German Bishops Conference, he said he understood the feeling of the general public that the credibility of the Church and clergy had been damaged. Moreover, he explicitly apologised two times for the scandals caused by the Church leaders to the Catholic faithful, particularly to those whose faith had been shaken by these events.
At a time when several Churches have distanced themselves from the nuns’ protest or taken outright stands against them, Archbishop Kuriakose grappled directly with the issue of the nuns’ protest, calling it righteous and in the search of truth. He pointed out that it was not the first time that the Church was forced to take to the streets in protest to further its causes, and that it was perfectly acceptable to protest in the land of Mahatma Gandhi. He pointed out that the late Archbishop of Trichur, Fr. Joseph Kundukulam had called for a strike and public demonstration against a play called “The Sixth Wound of Christ”, and that in his own diocese, a public demonstration had been held for the release of Fr. Tom Uzhanalil (who was held captive by ISIS), and also mentioned an Archbishop who addressed a gathering from a strike podium in Trivandrum. He correctly pointed out that the only conditions for a strike where that it should follow the principles of nonviolence and ahimsa.
He reportedly also said that these controversies, like the nuns’ protest in Kerala, did not merely affect the Syro-Malabar Church or Catholics alone, but believing Christians of all denominations, and called for prayer for the Church, for believers, for the country and for protecting the secular nature of the Constitution.