SOS petitions Pope against reinstating Bishop Mulakkal

Matters India [New Delhi, IN]

June 14, 2022

By Matters India reporter

An organization formed to support Catholic nuns in distress, on June 14 petitioned Pope Francis against the alleged move to “reinstate” Bishop Franco Mulakkal as head of the diocese of Jalandhar.

The appeal from Save Our Sisters (SOS) claims that a trial court exonerating him in the case was not final and an appeal challenging it was pending before the Kerala High Court.

The Vatican on September 20, 2018, accepted Bishop Mulakkal’s request to relieve him from pastoral duties as a prelate of Jalandhar before he went to the southern Indian state of Kerala to face interrogation by the police.

The Vatican then appointed an apostolic administrator to manage the northern Indian diocese.

Bishop Mulakkal then faced a rape allegation from a Catholic nun.

The SOS termed as “shocking” the media reports that Bishop Mulakkal will resume pastoral duties. The organization said it has learnt from other sources that “the Vatican is acting solely on the report and advice of the apostolic nuncio in New Delhi, who SOS says is a Mulakkal supporter.

The SOS move came following media reports that decks have been cleared for Bishop Mulakkal’s return to the pastoral responsibilities. The Vatican has reportedly accepted a Kerala court’s decision to acquit the prelate of rape charges.

“All the eminent lawyers who studied the judgment are of unanimous opinion that (the trial court) judgment is very bad and will have only a short life as it will be reversed on appeal,” the SOS said in the petition.

SOS explained in detail the rape charges against the bishop and said the case remains proved absolutely and the “abduction and attempt to murder case” of the accused bishop stands dismissed being totally false.

“In this situation, it is our humble prayer that Bishop Franco may not be reinstated as the Bishop of Jalandhar, until the appeal against the judgment is heard and decided by the high court of Kerala.”

Reacting to the SOS move, a church source said the Vatican respects Indian judiciary and its decision and it is upto them whether to wait for the high court decision on the appeal filed against the lower court order exonerating the Bishop.

The source termed as “a sort of human rights violation” to deny Bishop Mulakkal “justice” even after the court absolved him of all the charges against him.

The source said asking Bishop Mulakkal to wait until the high court decision on the appeals to assume new charges raises some technical questions. It is not certain how long the court will take to consider the nun’s appeal.

Earlier on June 11, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, during a visit to Jalandhar told the priests in the diocese that the Vatican has accepted the trial court’s decision on Bishop Mulakkal.

The nuncio also said this in response to a query regarding the delay in the Vatican accepting Indian court’s decision on rape charges against Bishop Mulakkal.

The Vatican’s decision to accept the court verdict came six months after the Additional District and Sessions Court I, Kottayam, acquitted the bishop, saying the prosecution failed to produce evidence against the accused.

The 57-year-old Bishop was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam between 2014 and 2016 when he was the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese.

The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese.