MUMBAI, India – It was a chaotic scene outside the bishop’s residence in Jalandhar, India, as police arrived on Monday to interrogate Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been accused by a nun of raping her on 13 different occasions between 2014-2016 at the nun’s order’s convent in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Kerala police traveled to the bishop’s home in the northern state of Punjab, but the bishop was not in the residence when they arrived. The officers interrogated other persons at the residence who were on their witness list, when the bishop finally arrived in the early evening.
As Mulakkal entered the compound, his private security scuffled with several members of the news media covering the event, and 13 journalists claimed they were assaulted.
Mulakkal was expected to be arrested Monday by many observers, after police earlier approached the Kerala High Court, asking for an arrest warrant.
“The available evidence collected so far revealed that the accused Bishop Franco committed an unnatural offence and raped the nun repeatedly on different dates from May 6, 2014, to September 23, 2016, against the will and consent of the victim by abusing his dominance over her as Bishop of Jalandhar. The offence was committed after confining her in the guest room No. 20 of St Francis Mission Home, Kuravilangad,” said the statement filed by the police with the court.
Among the evidence submitted was a statement from a medical examination stating there was evidence that the nun had been sexually assaulted.
The High Court turned down the request for the arrest warrant but said the police themselves could decide to make an arrest.
The court also told Church authorities not to circulate literature about the “moral character” of the nun, whom Mulakkal has said is retaliating for his investigation of her alleged affair with a married man.
The nun is a member of the Syro-Malabar Church, which is based in Kerala, a center of Christianity in India. Priests and nuns from the state can often be found serving in other parts of the country.
The sexual assaults allegedly occurred in a room in a convent set aside for Kerala-born priests of the Jalandhar Diocese visiting home.
The case is just one of several scandals affecting Christians in Kerala state, which has the largest Christian population in India.
Tax authorities in India have interviewed Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, in connection with a series of suspicious land deals that caused the Vatican to send a special administrator into his archdiocese.
Last year, the cardinal was accused along with two senior priests and a real estate agent of selling several plots of land illegally, leading to a loss of over $10 million.
Critics said the deal violated both canon and civil law, since the land was sold for well below market value – Indian law forbids the irregular transfer of funds between charitable or religious trusts.
Meanwhile, two priests of the Kerala-based Malankara Orthodox Church turned themselves in on Monday after being accused of raping a teacher working at a church-affiliated school.
They and two other priests are accused of blackmailing the woman for sexual favors. One of them had allegedly filmed a sexual encounter with the woman in the 1990s and threatened her with exposure if she didn’t submit.