On September 13, the day the Kerala Police issued a notice to Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal to appear before it for questioning on September 19, he issued a circular, delegating administrative responsibility of the Jalandhar diocese in his absence to a senior priest in Amritsar.
Confirming the circular issued to all the churches under the diocese, Father Peter Kavumpuram, the Public Relations Officer of the Jalandhar diocese, however, said it was a “routine practice” to “hand over charge of diocese to any senior father whenever the bishop goes out”.
“The Bishop has neither resigned from his post nor has he appointed anyone as Bishop. He has just handed over the charge in his absence to the senior-most father, Monsignor Mathew Kokkandum, who is First Vicar General under the Diocese of Jalandhar and director of the St. Francis School of Amritsar,” said Kavumpuram.
The circular issued by the Bishop reads: “As you have probably come to know from the media the investigation into the allegations raised against me there are several contradictions in the evidences collected against me as per the report of the police. It is reported that I am likely to be called for further clarifications by the Investigating Officer in Kerala. In my absence, Msgr. Mathew Kokkandam will administer the diocese as in the normal practice when I am away from the diocese. I request you to continue to pray for me and for the alleged victim and her supporters who have come out against me so that divine intervention may bring about change of heart and the truth of the matter may be revealed…”
It is learnt that the Bishop, who is still in Jalandhar, will hold a meeting with his legal advisor on Sunday before proceeding to Kerala to join the police investigation on September 19. A senior father of a Doaba-based church said the Bishop may apply for anticipatory bail after tomorrow’s meeting.
The circular, which announces other administrative changes and provisions, said that the Finance Council meeting held at the Bishop House on September 4 had decided to increase the annual travel allowance for holidays for priests to Rs 5,000.