Syro-Malabar Church meets to confront scourge of sexual abuse

The bishops gathered in Synod in Kochi, Kerala. The Indian Church has come under the spotlight for the story of Msgr. Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun. The new "Safe environment policy", bring laity on board.

Kochi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Parishes, dioceses and religious houses must be "safe from sexual abuse," states the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three rites of the Indian Catholic Church, gathered in Kochi (Kerala) from yesterday until 18 January.

The bishops, 55 in all, have established the creation of internal diocesan committees. The goal, they say, "is to create a safe environment for all, including children and vulnerable adults".

The debate on sexual abuse within the Church is one of the most controversial issues in recent years. Indeed, Pope Francis has himself called a meeting in the Vatican on "The protection of minors in the Church" for the end of February. One of the organizers is president of the Indian Bishops' Conference, Card. Oswald Gracias.

The Indian Church hit headlines locally and globally recently with the story of Msgr. Franco Mulakkal, bishop of Jalandhar (Punjab), accused of raping a nun of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Jesus several times. Arrested in September, he asked the Pope to accept his temporary resignation. After two weeks of detention, the bishop was released on bail and returned to the diocese.

Msgr. Mulakkal’s case was at the center of yesterday's Synod meeting which saw the bishops approve a new " Safe environment policy”, aimed at guaranteeing protection from all forms of violence. The initiative also foresees the participation of the laity through the local commissions in charge of handling complaints.