Kerala, nuns demand the protection of the Chief minister
by Nirmala Carvalho

The five religious belong to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Jesus. They are witnesses in the rape trial against Msgr. Franco Mulakkal, former bishop of Jalandhar. The nuns are opposed to the transfer order to other convents imposed by the mother superior.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Five sisters of the Missionaries of Jesus wrote a letter to Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, asking for protection. They are the religious who in recent months have conducted a fierce campaign against Msgr. Franco Mulakkal, outgoing bishop of Jalandhar (in Punjab), accused of raping one of their sisters several times in a convent in Kerala.

Since the protest began last September, the nuns have never left the Kuravilangad hostel in Kottayam to stay close to the nun who denounced the bishop. Recently, however, the mother superior has arranged for their transfer. The sisters oppose this and write that their "life is in danger".

An anonymous source tells AsiaNews that "there is no justification for rejecting the transfer. After they have testified before the judge, the nuns can be called anywhere". Another source adds: "Since the Missionaries of Jesus are a congregation of the Latin rite [of the Indian Bishops' Conference, ed.], Why has no one come from Rome to restore order?".

The "disobedient" missionaries are: Sr. Alphy Pallasseril, Sr. Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, Sr. Josephine Villoonnickal, Sr. Ancitta Urumbil and Sr. Nina Rose. The transfer order is signed by Sr. Regina Kadamthottu, superior general, who requires them to return to their respective convents. According to the superior, Sr. Alphy must return to Pakartala, in Bihar; Sr. Ancitta and Sr. Josephine are transferred to the convent of Lalmatia, in Jharkhand; Sr. Anupama, the leader of the group, must return to Punjab. The only nun not to be affected by the provision is Sr. Nina Rose, who can stay in the St. Francis Mission Home in Kuravilangad.

In the letter addressed to the Chief minister, the nuns say that their transfer is "an attempt to sabotage the trial. They want to divide us. In this way we will no longer be able to testify in court ". The missionaries add that the victim, whose name has never been revealed in all these months and only knows that she is 44, "lives thanks to the strength and support we give her. Our very presence is a great consolation for her, she is destroyed [psychologically] ".

The sisters fear that, once they return to the convents, the same fate as Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, who died in mysterious circumstances after testifying against Msgr. Mulakkal. Meanwhile, the bishop, who has offered his temporary resignation to better follow the trial in which he is implicated, has returned to the diocese of Jalandhar, after three weeks spent in prison in Kerala.

In the meantime, on 18th January, Card. George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church [which also includes the eparchy of Kottayam where the denunciation is registered], has issued a pastoral letter in which he calls for stringent actions for priests and nuns who "break canon law".