Pope relieves Bishop Franco of pastoral duties

Pope relieves Bishop Franco of pastoral duties

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. Reuters photo

The Vatican on Thursday temporarily removed Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, from his pastoral responsibilities. The bishop had earlier written to Pope Francis seeking permission to step down temporarily since he was preparing to face investigation in the case.

According to the complainant, a Kottayam-based nun attached to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, the 54-year-old bishop raped her multiple times between 2014 and 2016. A statement issued by the Apostolic Nunciature in India on Thursday confirmed that the Pope had received the bishop’s request.

“Having considered all circumstances, the Holy Father has accepted this request of Bishop Mulakkal and has appointed the Rt Rev Agnelo Rufino Gracias, Titular Bishop of Molicunza and Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Bombay, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Jalandhar,” the statement said.

Before writing to the Vatican, the bishop had handed over administrative responsibilities of the diocese to Vicar-General Mathew Kokkandam, a move which the diocese in Punjab termed as “normal practice”, considering that the bishop was set to face investigation outside the state.

Earlier this month, the nun had written to the Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, seeking justice and highlighting the Church’s apathy to her repeated calls for intervention. She said in the letter that she had also informed the Vatican about her grievance.“We feel Catholic Church is having concern only for the Bishops and priests. We would like to know is there any provision in the Canon Law for justice for sisters and women,” the nun said in her letter.