‘Denied money for medicines, ostracised’: Witness in Franco rape case recounts ordeal

In an interview to a Malayalam news portal, Sister Lissy Vadakkel said she will approach the Kerala High Court as she is being threatened to leave the convent in Kerala.
‘Denied money for medicines, ostracised’: Witness in Franco rape case recounts ordeal
‘Denied money for medicines, ostracised’: Witness in Franco rape case recounts ordeal
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It was in 2015 that Sister Lissy Vadakkel first met the nun, who was sexually assaulted by Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, at the Missionaries of Jesus convent in Kuruvilangad, Kottayam. The nun eventually told Sister Lissy everything - how the Bishop violated her multiples times and how she was being emotionally harassed and stifled. Sister Lissy not only extended full support to the nun but gave a statement to the Kerala police against the Bishop. Being a prime witness in the rape case has cost her dearly and culminated in threats and ostracisation, like the other five nuns whose protests led to Franco’s arrest. 

In an exclusive video interview to The Cue, a Malayalam news portal, Sister Lissy revealed her ordeal, from how her efforts to give a police statement was sabotaged to the threats of being expelled from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) convent, where she is a member.

Sister Lissy was supposed to join Sister Alphy, Sister Anupama, Sister Josephine, Sister Neena Rose and Sister Ancitta in their protests in Kerala in August 2018. However, Sister Lissy, who was in Andhra Pradesh to attend a funeral at the time, was asked by the Mother General not to return to Kerala soon and remain at FCC’s Vijayawada convent. “I stayed back as I did not want to cause any problem then,” she told The Cue.

She also revealed that she had intended to give her statement to the police on September 9, but the convent authorities deliberately delayed her attempts.

“Finally, when I returned to Kerala after a treatment, I gave the statement against the Bishop, on February 5 this year. I was even told that I should have heard what the priests who are close to Bishop Franco had to say,” she said.

On February 10, she was given a transfer order from the Muvattupuzha convent in Ernakulam to join the Vijayawada community in Andhra Pradesh. Her phone was also confiscated, she alleges.

“They said my ministry work in Kerala was not required and that I could remain in the Vijayawada convent in prayers. I did not protest and stayed back in Vijayawada,” she said.

The Vijayawada convent members allegedly continued to criticise Sister Lissy and urged her to withdraw her statement. “If the Bishop is punished for the crime he did, it will affect the believers worldwide, they told me,” she added.

Fed up of this, she left for Kerala without informing anybody. “At the Kerala convent, everybody turned against me. Even some of the parishioners and priests at the church started ostracising me. I was denied money to buy medicines for diabetes, arthritis and my other illness and even the basic necessities such as toothpaste and oil. I had to seek money from people outside the convent to buy these essentials, which the Provincial Mother propagated as shopping,” she told The Cue.

The Kerala police, following a complaint by Sister Lissy’s brother and the Save Our Sisters (SOS) Action Council, reached the convent and requested the authorities to let her leave the convent in Ernakulam to be with her mother for seven days. “But when I returned to the convent, CCTV cameras were installed, the windows in my room were shut and the television room was locked,” she said.

Three days later, a team of police officers came to the convent, questioned her and asked her to move out as the Provincial Mother had approached the court. “I have been wearing this habit for the last 34 years. I will not go home; as per customs, I belong here, in the Jyothi Bhavan convent,” she said.

Sister Lissy says she will approach the Kerala High Court. “I realise that I have been asked to leave the convent and that I don’t have police protection. I feel abandoned. That’s why I have decided to pursue the legal recourse,” she said.

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