Kerala church faces backlash for featuring rape-accused bishop in calendar; sparks fierce protests
By Nivedita Giri
International Business Times
December 15, 2020
|Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal faces arrest in rape case|
|Bishop Franco Mulakkal (2nd R), accused of raping a nun, is pictured outside a crime branch office on the outskirts of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, India, September 19, 2018.|
Despite rape allegation against the church Bishop, a senior priest of the Catholic diocese in Thrissur said that the Bishop still remains a member of the church.
A photo of Kerala Roman Catholic Church Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused of sexually abusing a nun, featuring on the official calendar for 2021 by the Thrissur diocese in the State has taken up churchgoers by storm. The incident triggered protests, with some followers even burning copies of the calendar in Kollam seeking its immediate withdrawal.
The month of March in the new official calendar for 2021 features the photograph of Mulakkal, along with other Bishops, indicating his birthday.
Legacy of new Papal calendars
According to protesters, every year the church issues calendars to houses of believers for a nominal charge. However, since the last two years, photo of rape accused Bishop was being printed in March month's page.
"In the past years also people had raised objections against this and had even burned calendars. But this year also it has been repeated," said Riju Kanjookaran, convenor of Save Our Sister, the group which backed the protest of five Kerala nuns against Franco Mulakkal.
Kerala nun rape case
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was accused of raping a 44-year-old Kerala nun, also a mother superior, of a Missionaries of Jesus convent in the state, multiple times between 2014 and 2016. He was arrested in September in 2018 but is now out on bail.
But Mullakkal had denied the nun's allegations, saying he was framed after he took action against her for financial irregularities at the convent.
Later the special investigation team of Kerala police arrested him after several rounds of questioning. He was removed from the post of bishop later.
Public anger against the authority
Angry with his photographs, members of the Kerala Catholic Reforms Movement resorted to burning of the calendars on Sunday.
"It's sad to see that the bishops of the Syro Malabar church are proving again and again that they do not consider the feelings of the believers. We want the calendar withdrawn," said Shaiju Anthony, another Convenor of Save Our Sisters forum.
A senior priest of the church, however, said the accused remains a member of the diocese.
"This is a private calendar for the Thrissur diocese. Franco Mulakkal is a member of their diocese and still continues to be a Bishop, though he is not in charge of any diocese. So his details were added along with details of other Bishops," the priest said further on condition of anonymity.
Another member of the diocese said many others harbour concerns about the photograph but have avoided speaking out against it only out of fear.
"While the calendar has been distributed in some churches of the diocese, some others have not distributed the calendars yet, seeing the protests and responses," one diocese member said.