Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a Kerala nun, has written to Pope Francis requesting for permission to step down temporarily as the head of the Diocese of Jalandhar, saying he needs to spend more time to fight his case.
In a letter dated September 16, the Bishop said he may have travel to Kerala several times and so he wants to hand over the responsibilities of the diocese temporarily.
A day after the Kerala Police asked him to appear before an investigating team, the Bishop gave the administrative responsibility of Jalandhar diocese to a senior priest.
"In my absence Mathew Kokkandam will administer the diocese as in the normal practice when I am away," Bishop Mulakkal said in a circular on September 13. He is due to appear before the police team on Wednesday.
The police in Kerala decided to summon the bishop amid mounting pressure to initiate action against him, after a nun accused the bishop of sexually assaulting her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016. She has also sought immediate intervention of the Vatican for justice and demanded the bishop's removal.
The nun has questioned why the church was "closing its eyes to the truth" when she had mustered courage to make her case public. She alleged that Bishop Mulakkal was using "political and money power" to "bury" the case against him.
The bishop however, has said there were "several contradictions" in the evidences collected by the police against him. "I leave everything into the hand of God as I await the result of the findings of the team probing the allegation," he said in a note to the diocese. Earlier he had dismissed the nun's allegations as "baseless and concocted", insisting she levelled those as the catholic order had rejected her demand for "favours."
The chief of the National Commission for Women on Saturday said the Jalandhar bishop stepping down is the "first win" in the case. "I have heard some reports that the accused bishop has stepped down and this shows we are moving in the right direction. We have won for the first time in this long battle against that bishop. The High Court has given some more time to the police. Let us see what they come up with. After that, if things are not proper, we will again intervene," said Ms Rekha Sharma.
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