Kochi: Save Our Sisters (SOS), an organisation formed to support nuns opposing Bishop Franco, following a rape allegation against him few years ago, on Tuesday petitioned Pope Francis against the alleged move to “reinstate” him as Bishop of Jalandhar diocese, claiming that a trial court exonerating him in the case was not final and an appeal challenging it was pending before the High Court.
Terming as “shocking” the media reports that the Bishop will resume pastoral duties, the SOS said it has learnt from other sources that “the Vatican is acting solely on the report and advice of the ‘Nuncio’ in Delhi”, who according to it is a supporter of Bishop Franco.
The SOS move came following reports that decks have been cleared for former Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s return to the pastoral responsibilities, as the Vatican has accepted the Kerala court’s decision, acquitting him of rape charges levelled by the nun.
In September 2018, the Bishop was temporarily relieved of his responsibilities of the diocese by Pope Francis after he was questioned by the Kerala police over rape charges levelled by the nun.
“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”, the SOS said in the petition.
Detailing the charges of rape against the Bishop, the SOS claimed the rape case remains proved absolutely and the “abduction and attempt to murder case” of the accused Bishop stands dismissed being totally false.”
“In this situation, it is our humble prayer that Bishop Franco 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.”
Reacting to the SOS move, a church source said Vatican respects Indian judiciary and its decision and it is upto them whether to wait for the high court decision on the appeal filed against the lower court order exonerating the Bishop.
The source also said denying the Bishop “justice” even after the court absolved him of all the charges against him is a sort of human rights violation. The source said asking him to wait till the arrival of the HC decision to assume new charges raises some technical questions also as it is not certain how long it takes for the court to consider the nun’s appeal.
Earlier, it was reported that during his visit to Jalandhar diocese last Saturday, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, informed the priests of the north Indian diocese that the Vatican has accepted the trial court’s decision on Bishop Franco.
The Apostolic nuncio said this to a group of priests of Jalandhar diocese in response to a query regarding the delay in Vatican accepting Indian court’s decision on rape charges against Bishop Franco, the well informed source had told PTI.
The Vatican’s decision to accept the court verdict came four 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 the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam between 2014 and 2016 when he was the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese.
The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese. PTI