Rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was relieved of his pastoral responsibilities by Pope Francis, still interferes with the administrative matters of Jalandhar diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, nuns protesting against him alleged in Kerala today.
"We believe that Bishop Angelo is the apostolic administrator of Jalandhar diocese. But when we see the kind of letters (being issued by the diocese PRO and Missionaries of Jesus congregation head), we doubt whether Bishop Franco still wields power in the diocese," the representative of the protesting nuns told reporters at Kuravilangad near Kottayam.
Their statement comes a day after Jalandhar diocese PRO Father Peter Kavumpuram, who is allegedly close to Bishop Mulakkal, issued a clarification statement countering an e-mail issued to nuns by its apostolic administrator Bishop Angelo Ruffino Gracias.
In his e-mail, Bishop Angelo had assured the five nuns, who are staying with the rape survivor nun, that "there will be no move from the diocese of Jalandhar to oust" them from the Kuravilangad convent in Kottayam district as long as they are needed for the court case.
The Bishop wrote to the nuns after they complained to him against the head of their congregation, Missionaries of Jesus under the Jalandhar diocese, for issuing transfer orders to the four of them who took part in the protest demanding the arrest of the bishop.
Another nun, who is staying with the rape survivor, was asked to report to the Missionaries of Jesus congregation's Jalandhar convent and meet its Superior General Sister Regina Kandamthottu on January 26.
Peter Kavumpuram issued a clarification statement countering Bishop Angelo hours after his e-mail communication was made public, saying even though the congregation of Missionaries of Jesus is of diocesan right, the internal running of the congregation is left to the Superior General and her council.
"The Bishop of Jalandhar does not normally interfere unless the overall interests of the church demand such interference. By this clarification the Apostolic Administrator has not interfered in the internal affairs of this congregation, therefore the order to return to their rightful communities by the Mother General is not cancelled but stands," the statement quoting Father Kavumpuram had said.
The protesting nuns stay with the survivor nun in the convent in Kuravilangad.
Talking to reporters today, the nun representing the protesters rejected the clarification statement issued by Father Kavumpuram, saying they would not move out of the convent in Kuravilangad.
"Clarification statement is not acceptable for us. We will continue to stay in this convent till the case is over," she said.
The congregation of nuns -- Missionaries of Jesus -- had directed the nuns to join their previously-assigned convents, according to the transfer orders issued between March and May last year.
The nuns were served notice by the superior general, urging them to take up their assigned responsibilities as befitting members of the congregation.
The four nuns had earlier written to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking his intervention to ensure that their transfer orders were not effected till the trial of the case was over.
The survivor nun had also written a separate letter to the chief minister, seeking his help in the matter.
"Their aim is to single me out and to harass and torture me. My life will be in danger if such a situation arises," she said in her letter.
The nuns on Saturday had joined ''Save our Sisters'' forum to stage a protest against the transfer orders issued by the congregation.
A tense situation prevailed at the protest site when a group of people opposing the nuns'' protest reached there and raised slogans against them.
The group was removed from the spot, police sources said.
The protest led by the nuns and the Catholic reformist forums in Kochi in September last year had led to a public outrage and demands for action against the bishop.
Bishop Mulakkal, a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy in India, was arrested last year following allegations by a nun that he repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her at the Kuravilangad convent between 2014 and 2016, a charge denied by him.