The Vatican on Thursday temporarily relieved Franco Mulakkal, the Bishop of Jalandhar Diocese and accused in the rape of a nun, of his pastoral responsibilities, according to the Catholic Bishop Conference of India. The announcement comes just days after the Bishop had written to the Vatican, expressing his desire to step down temporarily from Church responsibilities.
The Pope appointed Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Bombay Agnelo Rufino Gracias as the Apostolic administrator of the diocese of Jalandhar with immediate effect, a CBCI statement said.
This comes even as the senior Catholic priest is being questioned by the Special Investigation Team for the second day in Kochi on Thursday.
Earlier on Monday, Mulakkal had handed over a letter to the representative of Pope, stating that he needed more time to travel to Kerala and fight the case against him.
“Bishop Mulakkal requires to spend more time to fight his case, travel to Kerala and expressed willingness to absolve himself from responsibilities of the diocese temporarily and has handed over a letter to the representative of the Pope, seeking permission for the same,” the Diocese of Jalandhar had informed.
Mulakkal had stepped down as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese on Saturday, September 15, handing over temporary charge of the diocese to Father Mathew Kokkandam.
A Kerala nun has accused the 54-year-old Bishop of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016. Five other nuns of the congregation have supported her claim and along with a section of the laity are holding a protest at Kochi, which continued for the ninth day on Sunday.
An FIR was registered against the Bishop, with the nun and other convent inmates giving detailed statements running into 114 pages.
Jalandhar police on Saturday served a notice to Mulakkal to appear for interrogation on September 19.
A criminal case has been registered against Missionaries of Jesus for publishing a letter as well as a photo of the victim nun," Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar told ANI.
Mulakkal has denied wrongdoing and termed it a "conspiracy" against him.