An organization formed to support Catholic nuns in distress petitioned Pope Francis on Tuesday, June 14, against the reported move to “reinstate” Bishop Franco Mulakkal as head of the Diocese of Jalandhar in India.
The group Save Our Sisters (SOS) claimed that a court decision exonerating the prelate of charges of rape is not final and an appeal is pending before the Kerala High Court.
In 2018, the Vatican accepted Bishop Mulakkal’s request to relieve him of pastoral duties before he went to the southern Indian state of Kerala to face police investigation.
Bishop Mulakkal faced a rape allegation from a Catholic nun.
The Vatican appointed an apostolic administrator to manage the northern Indian diocese.
The SOS said reports that Bishop Mulakkal is about to resume his pastoral duties are “shocking.”
The organization alleged that “the Vatican is acting solely on the report and advice of the apostolic nuncio in New Delhi.”
“All the eminent lawyers who studied the judgment are of unanimous opinion that (the trial court) judgment is very bad and will have only a short life as it will be reversed on appeal,” read the SOS petition.
“In this situation, it is our humble prayer that Bishop Franco (Mullakal) may not be reinstated as the Bishop of Jalandhar, until the appeal against the judgment is heard and decided by the high court of Kerala,” it added.
On June 11, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, said the Vatican has accepted the trial court’s decision on Bishop Mulakkal.
The Vatican’s decision to accept the court verdict came six months after the Additional District and Sessions Court I, Kottayam, acquitted the bishop, saying the prosecution failed to produce evidence against the accused.
The 57-year-old bishop was accused of raping a nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam between 2014 and 2016.
The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar diocese.