A section of nuns, priests and laity of the Roman Catholic Church has written to the Vatican over the alleged rape of a nun in Kerala by a bishop, urging it "to do what is right" to provide justice to the women in the church.
The letters were written to Giambattista Diquttro, Apostolic Nuncio to India and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India Cardinal Oswald Gracias.
The church authorities were requested to "advise" Pope Francis to "relieve" Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal "of his pastoral responsibilities so that the church is seen to actually practice the zero tolerance it professes to observe in abuse cases."
Saying that they were concerned about the integrity of the Indian church, the letters stated that people's faith in the credibility of the church to implement its policy of zero tolerance in abuse matters would continue to erode if the accused bishop remain in his position at Jalandhar diocese.
They said the "mud slinging" between the bishop and his priests on one hand and the aggrieved sister and her family on the other has turned the church into an object of ridicule, "thus causing a lot of harm to the church and in particular to the faith of the people of God."
"We trust that Christ who is our light, and who always stood up against the exploitation of women will stand with the church and give the leadership courage to do what is right in the cause of justice to women in the church," the letter to the Apostolic Nuncio to India said.
They also requested Cardinal Gracias to advise bishops in India to publicise and create awareness about CBCI guidelines to deal with sexual harassment in workplace, 2017, and institute the structures and procedures described therein without delay.
"To preach justice, the church must be seen to practice justice (Synod of Bishops, 1971). Sadly the representations made by the religious sister to the bishops have brought no response, raising issues about the credibility of the CBCI policy," the letter to Cardinal Gracias said.
Bishop Mulakkal has claimed he is innocent and said the truth will come out in the police investigation.
"I know that I am innocent, but that is not enough. Bringing out the truth is also my responsibility now. I believe that the police investigation in the case will bring out the truth," he had said on Thursday.
In her complaint to the Kottayam district police chief, the nun charged Bishop Mulakkal with rape and unnatural sex multiple times at a small town near Kottayam between 2014 and 2016.
Clergymen supporting Bishop Mulakkal had said the nun filed a complaint against him after a priest, also an official of the Jalandhar diocese, filed one against her relatives for allegedly threatening the bishop.
In his complaint, the priest has alleged that the nun's relatives threatened to kill him after he ordered a probe against her on the basis of the complaint received by the Mother Superior of her congregation.
Last week, the nun complained to the National Commission for Women that the Kerala Police was "not working" in the case as the accused is a "highly-linked" person.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said the commission would extend all possible help to the nun in her fight.