09/12/2018, 17.42
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Protests in Kerala over alleged rape of a nun by a bishop

The nuns belong to the Missionaries of Jesus. The abuses blamed on Mgr Franco Mulakkal, bishop of Jalandar (in Punjab), date back to 2014-2016. The Indian Church is divided between the nun’s supporters and her opponents. The accused bishop points the finger at anti-Church groups who want tarnish his name.

Kochi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the past few days, a group of nuns from the Missionaries of Jesus have been protesting in Kerala against the rape of one of their members, allegedly by Mgr Franco Mulakkal, bishop of the Diocese of Jalandar (Punjab). The nuns want the prelate arrested.

The case began in July when a nun said that the bishop had repeatedly raped her between 2014 and 2016, when both were staying at a hostel in Kerala. The story sparked a debate within the Indian Church but so far Church leaders have not spoken out on the matter.

For his part, Mgr Mulakkal has rejected the accusations. In an interview with the Times of India, he said that “Some damage has been caused to the reputation of the church, and mine, by the allegations and the media trial”.

In Kerala, the case has shaken local Catholics, about a million, the largest Catholic community in any Indian state.

In early July, the 44-year-old nun reported Mgr Mulakkal for his behaviour in a hostel owned by the Church in Kuravilangad. Her identity has not been made public to protect her privacy.

The bishop has denied all charges, claiming that the nun's complaint, which were made several years after the alleged incidents, is motivated by personal revenge after he removed her as superior in the congregation. He has also said that the alleged victim’s brother has been sending him persecutory messages.

For her part, the nun has said that she has received death threats. She has also accused Card George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, of a cover-up. She filed her complaint in the Eparchy of Kottayam, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three rites of the Indian Catholic Church.

In addition to the nun's accusations, the cardinal has been caught up in another controversy over the sale of land owned by the Church. For this reason, some observers are wondering whether the accusations are an attempt to discredit Church leaders since both Mgr Mulakkal and his alleged victim belong to the Latin rite.

From a purely local matter, the case went national this week, after the five Missionary Sisters of Jesus began their protest on Saturday, joined by hundreds of people, in front of the High Court in Kochi, Kerala’s business capital.

Kemal Pasha, a retired judge of the High Court, and the Joint Christian Council have come out in favour of the nuns. The former said that the protest "is not a fight against the Catholic Church but against a grave injustice". Members of the Christian group went on a hunger strike and started a sit-in.

In his defence, Mgr Mulakkal claims that “The protest is sponsored by anti-church groups. Only those nuns have ganged up with the complainant who were part of the team she headed here as Superior General of the Missionaries of Jesus Sisters (MJS) in Jalandhar Cantt. It is their last resort as a pressure tactic after a police official gave a statement that there was no sufficient evidence to arrest me,” the Bishop said.

“The five nuns accompanying the complainant in the protest are supposed to be working in other convents but they are staying in Kerala in disobedience,” he added. “The complainant is building the pressure as she knows that if my name is cleared in a police probe then she would face questions on how she lost her virginity.”

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