Verdict in Indian bishop’s rape trial likely on Jan. 14

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

January 11, 2022

By UCA News reporter, Kochi

The trial in the rape case involving Bishop Franco Mulakkal has concluded and the special court in Kottayam in the southern Indian state of Kerala is set to deliver its verdict on Jan. 14.

Bishop Mulakkal was accused by a nun of sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016 in a complaint registered with Kerala police in June 2018. Police filed a 2,000-page charge sheet against him in April 2019.

Additional District and Sessions Judge G. Gopakumar on Jan. 10 completed the trial procedure including recording the statements of the victim, accused, witnesses from both sides and the final legal arguments.

The prelate stands accused of raping a former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the patronage of the accused as the then bishop of Jalandhar Diocese in the northern state of Punjab.

The nun in her complaint had accused the bishop of raping her multiple times during his visits to her convent in Kuravilangad town in Kerala. The prelate has also been accused of wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation among others.

The special court held the entire proceedings of the trial in-camera after Bishop Mulakkal’s appeal to the court to restrain the media from covering the proceedings.

The prelate has consistently denied all the allegations against him and in a video message appealed to everyone to continue to pray for him.

“The truth in the court of God will appear in the court of human as well,” he said.

The prelate asserted that whatever the outcome the verdict will be accepted.

Bishop Mulakkal was arrested and jailed after supporters of the nun staged a public protest in September 2018. He was granted bail by Kerala High Court.

Though he continues to hold the title of Jalandhar’s bishop, the diocese is being helmed by a Vatican-appointed administrator.

Bishop Mulakkal is the first Indian bishop to face such heinous charges and many faithful demanded that he be stripped of the title of bishop until completion of the trial, but the Vatican did not concede it.

Church leaders maintained that a decision on his title would be taken after the court verdict. The verdict could have serious ramifications for the Church in India where Christians face increased persecution from right-wing Hindu groups.