Pope relieves bishop Mulakkal of pastoral responsibilities

Geneva Stokes
September 24, 2018

The interview lasted till the evening and will continue for a second day on September 20.

On Wednesday, the Bishop, who travelled from Jalandhar to Kochi after being summoned by Kerala police, was questioned for seven hours.

Inspector-general of police (Kochi Range) Vijay Sakhare told PTI that the arrest was recorded at 8 pm and the bishop would be produced in a magistrate court in Pala in Kottayam district Saturday.

This is the first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape. He was driven in an innocuous Volkswagen Polo vehicle along with his public relations officer, Fr Peter Kavumpuram, and a lawyer. The decision to arrest the Bishop will be taken post-interrogation, reported the daily.

Mulakkal is the bishop of the northern Indian city of Jalandhar.

She said she was forced to approach police because church authorities did not take action after she reported the attacks. She said the government was afraid of the money power of the bishop. The interrogators asked him to give specific responses to some 100 questions they had prepared days ago. He has denied the charges.

Following the allegations, dozens of nuns, activists and advocates have protested outside a court demanding his prosecution.

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Pope Francis has accepted the request of Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal that he be temporarily relieved of pastoral duties.

The findings of the internal probe also sparked another controversy as the congregation ousted the survivor nun's image, which evidently violates Indian laws.

"They are protecting the bishop in spite of sufficient proof", the protesters said. "I can't say if the arrest will be made today".

Accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, Mulakkal arrived at the Crime Branch office around 11 am, even as demands for his arrest grew. The victim nun had also reportedly said that the Bishop had been using his political and economic clout to brush off the case which has been lodged against him.

Though the ongoing agitation demanding the arrest would be stopped but legal fight till the nun gets justice would still be continued, five nuns said.

Sexual abuse by clergymen and the failure of senior Church officials to take action has been one of the biggest scandals facing the Catholic Church in recent years.

The Catholic Church in India has reportedly "reprimanded" nuns who have participated in a sit-in protest for the alleged victim. "We are pained by the statement against our protest by the secretary of the state's ruling party", Mr Vattoli said. "If the allegations are proved right, we are ready to boycott him".

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