New Delhi: Four days after Catholic bishop of the Syrian Malabar Church Franco Mulakkal, who is alleged to have raped a nun in Kerala, wrote to the Pope expressing his desire to step down “temporarily”, his request has been accepted.
“Bishop Franco Mulakkal temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities by Vatican," the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) said in a statement.
The Pope appointed Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Bombay Agnelo Rufino Gracias as the Apostolic administrator of the diocese of Jalandhar with immediate effect, a CBCI statement said.
The announcement came even as the senior Catholic priest is being questioned by the Special Investigation Team for the second day here Thursday.
The SIT of Kerala police probing the alleged rape case against Mulakkal resumed questioning him Thursday even as the state police chief said a decision on Franco Mulakkal's arrest could be taken in a day or two.
Mulakkal, the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus, the congregation to which the alleged victim also belongs, was grilled by the SIT headed by DySP K Subhash for seven hours Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the protest by various Catholic reform organisations and a group of nuns seeking Mulakkal's arrest entered its 13th day Thursday.
In the letter dated September 16, the Bishop expressed willingness to absolve himself of the responsibilities of the diocese since he would have to travel to Kerala several times and has sought permission for the same. The letter was handed over to the Pope’s representative in India.
The nun at the centre of the controversy had also sought urgent intervention of the Vatican for justice and demanded the Bishop's removal as the head of the Jalandhar diocese, questioning why the church was "closing its eyes to the truth" when she had mustered courage to make public her suffering.
She alleged that Bishop Mulakkal was using "political and money power" to "bury" the case against him.
The nun had accused the clergyman of sexually assaulting her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016. The bishop had, however, dismissed the allegations as "baseless and concocted", insisting she levelled those as the catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.