Bishop Franco Mulakkal has written to the Pope expressing his desire to step aside from the administration of the Jalandhar Diocese before joining the investigation in the nun rape case in Kerala on September 19.
Father Peter, PRO of Jalandhar Diocese, said the bishop will leave for Kerala on Tuesday.
The letter, undersigned by Father Peter Kavumpuram, PRO, Diocese of Jalandhar, reads, “Today 16th September, 2018, Bishop, Franco Mulakkal, wrote a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the Diocese in the background of the court’s opinion that there is lack of adequate evidence to arrest Franco indicating his innocence. He decided on his own to make this request to Holy father, so that the truth may be established. He is confident that his request will be accepted by Vatican.”
The bishop took the decision after his legal advisers advised him to step aside before Vatican City asks him to step down, said sources.
Meanwhile, protests mounted in Kerala seeking the bishop’s arrest. A protest by nuns under the banner of Save Our Sisters Action Council entered the 10th day on Monday. The complainant nun’s sister and social activist Dr P Geetha started an indefinite hunger strike in Kochi. The sister alleged that the bishop influenced the police using money power.
Similar sit-ins began in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, where social and cultural activists joined the agitation. In Kozhikode, Prof M N Karassery was leading a 24-hour agitation under the aegis of Secular Samajam.
Kottayam S P Hari Sankar said the bishop had informed them that he would appear before the investigating officer on Wednesday. “The venue of questioning will be finalised next day. Preparation of a detailed questionnaire, and clearing contradictions in statements of the complainant and other witnesses is going on.”
Advocate P Vijayabhanu, who is slated to appear for the bishop, said there was no instruction to move an anticipatory bail application in the High Court. The bishop would appear before the investigating officer on September 19, he added.