Amid rising protests by five nuns to get Franco Mulakkal, the rape-accused Bishop of Jalandhar, arrested, the Diocese of Jalandhar has announced that the accused Bishop has written to the Pope and requested to be temporarily relieved from his administrative duties in the diocese.
A statement put out by the Diocese on Sunday, September 16, read, “Bishop Franco Mulakkal wrote a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the Diocese in the background of the court’s opinion in favour of Bishop Franco, which says, there is a lack of adequate evidence for the Bishop’s arrest, indicating his innocence. He decided on his own to make the request to the Holy Father. He is confident that his request will be accepted by the Vatican.”
The statement by the Diocese of Jalandhar is a temporary measure in response to huge protests calling for the Bishop’s arrest that are set to take place in Kochi today.
Sources in the Church tell TNM that the Bishop’s resignation is not a voluntary one, but a forced one. “The accused Bishop is convinced that he will be booked and will be arrested in the case. It is learned that the Vatican seeks his resignation before the arrest,” a senior priest from the Ernakulam-Angamali archdiocese tells TNM.
“The Bishop’s resignation is seen as a bid to save face amid rumours that the Vatican would formally oust him. If found innocent, there are still chances of him returning to his post,” the priest further stated.
Other sources have confirmed that no response has been received yet from the Vatican yet.
The Bishop of Jalandhar has been accused of raping a 44-year-old nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016. Following a complaint by the survivor, investigations have been ongoing for 78 days now. However, no arrests have been recorded in the case yet.
If the Bishop is arrested, the Vatican will demand his resignation as per usual procedure.
The Kerala High Court, on September 13, declined to order the arrest of the Bishop despite mounting public pressure citing the Kerala police’s reports of discrepancies in the statements of people.
Following the High Court’s decision, five nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus have been protesting outside its premises to get the accused arrested for seven days now.
Amid the ongoing protest, the Bishop been has been summoned by the Kerala police on Wednesday for questioning. Ahead of his journey to Kerala, the Bishop handed over official duties to a senior priest, Matthew Kokkandam, for the time that he is away.
(With inputs from Sandeep Vellaram)