India: Nuns rape case - Protesting Sisters allowed to stay in Kerala

Source: AsiaNews/Diocese of Jalandhar

Five Missionary Sisters of Jesus, who have been have been campaigning on behalf of another sister who claims she was raped by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, will be allowed to stay with her throughout his trial the diocese of Jalandhar announced this week.

The Missionary Sisters of Jesus had received a transfer order from the mother superior of the congregation. They did not want to leave the nun who has accused the bishop alone and they fear the trial could be sabotaged.

Mgr Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Mumbai has been the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Jalandhar (in Punjab), since last September, when Pope Francis accepted the temporary resignation of Bishop Mulakkal has said they can remain.

The letter from Bishop Gracias is being seen as the first demonstration of support for the Sisters from church authorities. The alleged victim, the former superior of the Missionaries of Jesus, accused Mulakkal in September 2018 of multiple acts of violence committed between 2014 and 2016 in a convent in Kuravilangad, in Kottayam, Kerala.

Initially church authorities ignored her, but she gained the attention of the national and international press when five sisters organized a public protest, supported by several Catholic figures (one of them died in mysterious circumstances).

After those protests, however, the five nuns received transfer orders from their new superior to other convents, while they wanted to remain in Kottayam to support the victim. They said they feared that, if they went away, the bishop's supporters would have a free hand to sabotage the evidence.

Mgr Gracias welcomed the requests of the sisters and wrote: "I want to assure you five that, for what is in my power, from the diocese of Jalandhar there will be no action to drive you from the convent of Kuravingalad, as long as your testimony is needed in the judicial process... The truth will emerge when all the evidence is presented. I am sure that the Church wants truth to emerge."

After the bishop's announcement, the nuns decided to suspend another wave of protests they were planning.

Fr Peter Kavumpuram, spokesman of the diocese of Jalandhar, defended the mother superior, saying in a statement that she had not actually issued a "transfer" order, but "rather an invitation to return to their righteous communities from which the nuns had left without permission." Therefore the order of the congregation "is not canceled, but suspended."

Tags: Bishop Franco Mulakkal, India

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