Campaigners rally behind survivor nun as Bishop Mulakkal resigns amidst rape charges

Bishop Franco Mulakkal
Bishop Franco Mulakkal. File photo: Manorama

Kochi: Following Bishop Franco Mulakkal's resignation as Jalandhar Bishop, 'Save Our Sisters' campaigners reaffirmed on Friday that the survivor nun, who had accused him of rape, would persist in her pursuit of justice through the legal system.

'Save Our Sisters' (SOS) is a forum comprising nuns, priests, and prominent members of civil society launched in Kerala to support the nun when she came out in public with rape charges against the influential bishop a few years ago.

Fr. Augustine Vattoly, a senior Catholic priest who is the convenor of the forum, said Mulakkal's resignation is a small relief to the survivor nun and a group of her fellow nuns, who had faced intense social media attacks for raising charges against the former bishop.

The priest said he spoke to the survivor after the Vatican's announcement regarding the bishop's resignation came out on Thursday evening.

"She does not have any blind happiness. But, of course, she has hope. That's why she is still ready to continue her fight for justice," the priest said.

Bishop Mulakkal, who was acquitted by a local court in Kerala last year in the nun rape case, resigned from the Jalandhar Bishop's post on Thursday. The nun has challenged the trial court's decision at the Kerala High Court.

Recounting the ordeals the survivor nun had gone through during her fight for justice, Fr Vattoly said the mental tortures she had to suffer from society, the community, and the power centres of the church were beyond her imagination.

"The attacks through the media and social media have scared, hurt, and pained her. So, Mulakkal's resignation is, of course, a small relief to the survivor and her fellow nuns," he said.

The nun had accused Mulakkal of raping her multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam, Kerala, between 2014 and 2016, when he was the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese in Punjab.

The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese.

Coming down heavily on the bishop for claiming to be innocent in his resignation message, Fr Vattoly said Mulakkal might have thought that the faithful would believe him if he recited biblical verses and the words of Jesus Christ.

His tears are "fake" and it would have been a shame for the church if he continued to remain in the position.

When asked whether the survivor gets justice through Mulakkal's resignation, Fr Vattoly said she would get justice when it is granted through the court. "Then only, we can assure that she gets justice," the priest added.

In a video message on Thursday, Mulakkal thanked those who stood with him during "his difficult time". "May our sufferings and pains and the tears I have shed before the Almighty be the reason for the renewal of the church, the strengthening of faith, my own sanctification, and the glory of God," the bishop said.

A church source said the Vatican has informed the bishop that his resignation is not going to be treated as disciplinary action against him.

In September 2018, the bishop was temporarily relieved of his responsibilities of the diocese by Pope Francis after Mulakkal was questioned by Kerala police over rape charges levelled by a nun.

Despite being acquitted by the local court in the sensational case, Mulakkal was not given any new responsibilities in the church.
The Vatican had earlier accepted the court's judgement that acquitted him of the charges of raping a nun.
(With PTI inputs)

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