Rape accused Bishop Franco on Saturday announced that he would be handing over the administration of the Jalandhar diocese to another priest, Father Mathew Kokkandam. According to sources, this is the first time that such an administrative change is happening in the diocese.
In the circular, the bishop, accused by a Kerala nun of raping her at multiple occasions, thanked his supporters for their “continued prayers” at this time. “As you have probably come to know from the media the investigations into the allegations raised against me there are several contradictions in the evidences collected against me as per the report of the police. It is reported that I am likely to be called for further clarifications by the Investigating officer in Kerala (sic),” the circular reads.
Bishop Franco has requested people to continue their prayers for him as well as the “alleged victim and her supporters” so that “divine intervention may bring about change of heart and the truth of the matter may be revealed”.
It is to be noted here that while preliminary investigations had found that the nun was sexually assaulted and the same was brought to the notice of the Kerala High Court, no arrests were made in the case for a month.
On Saturday, it also came to light that the Vatican had taken note of the case and the matter was being discussed. According to sources, Bishop Franco handing over the administrative charge to another priest is a lead up to his resignation.
"Now he has no way to escape. Vatican will seek resignation before the arrest. If the bishop refuses, he should be dismissed from his post," a source said.
The source, who is from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said that the case against Bishop Franco had ruined the church’s reputation in India.
“It is fair that the accused bishop steps down and face the trial,” the source said.
(Inputs Sandeep Vellaram)