As the investigation against the rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal progresses, it is learned that the Jalandhar diocese is organising a ‘rosary procession’ to pray for the bishop. A poster in this regard has already been sent on the official WhatsApp group for priests under the diocese. Titled ‘Thyaga Sahana Japamala Yatra’ (Sacrifice Rosary Procession), the prayer meeting will be held on October 14 at 5 pm at the St Joseph Boys School in the city.
“To pray for Bishop Franco, To pray for Catholic Church, To pray for Bishop Agnelo Gracias”, the poster says.
Poonjar MLA and ardent supporter of Bishop Franco, PC George, will be the chief guest for the prayer meeting. The Jalandhar diocese apostolic administrator Bishop Agnelo Gracias will bless the meeting, the poster reads. Recently a group of priests had visited PC George to seek his support.
“Every October the church organises a rosary prayer. It is a big feast in Punjab. In the present situation, the rosary prayer has been changed to ‘Pray for Bishop Franco’,” said a senior priest from the Catholic Church.
A group of priests, however, sound unhappy over the new ‘Thyaga Sahana Japamala Yatra’. Sources in the church say a group of leaders are raising sentiments to garner support for Bishop Franco Mulakkal. “The church leadership is spreading messages internally that the bishop is innocent and that a group illegally arrested him. When a bishop has been put in jail, that is a big sin in the history of the church. Some congregations have already called for a fasting prayer for Bishop Franco,” said a senior priest belonging to Punjab.
Save Our Sisters (SOS) general convenor Fr Augustin Vattoly told TNM, “The rosary procession announcement shows that the entire church system blindly supports the bishop. In the land grabbing case in the Ernakulam-Angamali archdiocese also, the church leadership blindly supported the accused.”
“In any incident the church supports the accused every time and tarnishes the victim. It is the biggest issue in the current church system,” said Fr Vattoly.
“The reality is that Franco Mulakkal still continues as the Bishop of Jalandhar. Vatican did not relieve him from the post and the recent Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) press release shows that the Holy See is closely watching the Jalandhar case,” the priest added.
Recently the Changanacherry-based Catholic Federation of India called for a protest demanding the removal of nuns who spoke out against the bishop from the Kuravilangad convent.