Even as the Catholic Church's Jalandhar diocese reiterated its support for rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, five nuns leading the campaign against him said they have refused to accept transfer orders issued to them for fear of being targeted.
"We will obey the church's directive only if somebody takes responsibility for the victimised nun's safety. If we leave her alone here, she -- or maybe all of us -- will meet the same fate as that of Father Kuriakose," said one of the nuns, speaking on behalf of her group.
Bishop Mulakkal is accused of raping a nun on 14 occasions from May 5, 2014, to May 6, 2016, at the St Francis Mission Home in Kuruvilangad. Father Kuriakose Kattuthara -- their colleague -- was found dead at a church in Hoshiarpur's Dasuya in October last year, months after he deposed against the bishop in the rape case.
The nuns are currently staying at a convent in central Kerala's Kottayam town.
They also accused their senior nun of doing little despite knowing everything about the case. "Sister Regina closed her eyes to everything. We came here only to support our victimised colleague. All the protection is for Franco. The nun he victimised has to sit and cry here," she said.
She alleged that their superiors in Jalandhar refused to ensure even basic security arrangements for them despite requests from the police. "They did not repair the CCTV cameras, and refused to cut the trees. How safe do you think we will be if we move away from here? The five of us and the victimised nun will be finished off in the same manner as Father Kuriakose," the nun said.
The nun, however, expressed satisfaction with the police investigation. "They are doing good work. The chargesheet in the case should be submitted in the coming days," she said.
Jalandhar diocese spokesperson Father Peter Kuvampuram claimed that allegations of the church putting pressure on the nuns were "completely fake and concocted". He also expressed disbelief over the alleged rape case. "How can a woman be sexually assaulted 13 times, and that too in the same room? The truth will be out soon," he said.
Father Kuvampuram also said that neither Bishop Mulakkal nor the Jalandhar diocese had anything to do with the orders for the nuns' transfer. "The Missionaries of Jesus took a decision on that. They come under the Jalandhar diocese but their decisions are independent," he said.