A day ahead of Franco Mulakkal’s bail plea hearing in the Kerala High Court, the Jalandhar diocese Sunday took part in prayer meeting and a rosary procession in support of the rape accused.
Mulakkal was heading the Jalandhar diocese till last month and is presently lodged at Kerala’s Pala jail after being accused of rape by a nun.
The prayer meet and procession was organised by the Laity Commission and led by its director Yunus. Laity Commission is an independent body of church followers that works under the diocese.
The current head of the diocese, Bishop Agnelo Gracias, stayed away from the programme — titled ‘Thyaga Sahana Japmala Yatra’ (Sacrifice Rosary Procession) — citing pre-scheduled engagements. Father Thomas, secretary to the current Bishop, read out a message saying it was from Bishop Agnelo. The message, in Punjabi, said that Bishop Agnelo wanted to attend the event but he could not due to other programmes, and that he was sending his best wishes. It added that this was a painful period for the Catholic church, and that the current Bishop wanted Mulakkal to come back soon after getting justice in the case.
Posters of Mullakal were put up all around the pandal, including on the main stage along with a picture of the Pope and
The prayer meet, which was attended by over 1000 followers, nuns and priests of the Catholic church, was held at the St. Joseph’s Boys’ School in Jalandhar. It was followed by a rosary procession, which started at around 6:15 pm from the school to the PAP Chowk, around two-km from the starting point, and culminated back at the school premises.
Men, women and Children participated in the procession peacefully without raising any slogans. Organisers said that people from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh had come to attend it.
During his address, Father Xavier said,“We appeal to the community that should not play a judge until the court gives its verdict on Mulakkal”. He said that two resolutions were passed Sunday, including one against calling Mulakkal guilty till the courts rule in the matter.
Director of Laity Commission, Yunus, said the community should stand united and pray for Mulakkal. He also called on church followers to ignore attempts to tarnish his image.
Several speakers called Mulakkal a “revolutionary” who had taken steps to bring about positive change in the diocese and for the welfare of poor.
“The programme is not an institutional programme of the Diocese of Jalandhar, but diocese has participated in it because it is organised by the common people of the Catholic church under Laity Commission,” said Father Xavier.
Father Thomas and Father Xavier were the main participants from the Bishop House, Jalandhar, at the event.