New Delhi: Children`s activists in India on Wednesday criticised the Vatican for revoking the suspension of a Catholic priest who was convicted by a US court of sexually abusing a minor.
Indian priest Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 61, was suspended by his local diocese in India five years ago after being accused of sexually abusing two girls during a posting to Minnesota.
He was later convicted of assaulting one of them, a 16-year-old, and served time in jail.
But the Vatican lifted his suspension in January following a recommendation by an Indian bishop.
"The lifting of the suspension amounts to the Church condoning his actions," Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, an NGO working on women`s and girls` rights, told AFP.
The decision was "totally unacceptable", coming as the Vatican undertook to root out sexual abuse by the Church, she said.
Jeyapaul was accused of sexually abusing two girls while serving as a priest in Crookston Diocese in Minnesota between 2004 and 2005, but one victim dropped the charges against him.
The Diocese of Ooty in southern India`s Tamil Nadu state suspended him in 2010 before he was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited to the US to face trial.
Following a plea deal, Roseau County district court sentenced him to a year in jail but he was released and deported to India in June 2015 on account of time served while awaiting trial.
Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for Ooty diocese, said that while the Vatican had lifted Jeyapaul`s suspension, the priest would not return to service.
"We have provided him accommodation but he will not have any active role in the Church," Selvanathan told AFP.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a US group, has urged the Church to warn the public about Jeyapaul`s past and expressed concern over his presence in India.
"We worry now about the safety of girls in India near Fr Jeyapaul," the group said on its website.
Local police said they would collect more information on the disgraced priest but said he was not under watch.