MUMBAI, India – Bishop Franco Mulakkal has asked Pope Francis to allow him to step down temporarily while he fights allegations of rape in India.
According to Father Peter Kavumpuram, the spokesman for the Dicoese of Jalandhar, the bishop “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.”
Mulakkal has been accused of raping a nun on 13 different occasions between 2014-2016. The nun went to the police in the southern state of Kerala on June 29, and the civil authorities have since then been investigating the charges.
Mulakkal has vehemently denied the charges, and says the nun is retaliating against him for investigating a complaint she had an affair with a married man.
Kanumpuram’s statement refers to a decision last Thursday by the Kerala High Court which said it was not necessary to arrest the bishop before the investigation is completed.
The diocesan spokesman said the bishop is seeking for “the truth to be established” and is “confident” the pope will accept his request.
Police in India’s Kerala state – where the alleged sexual assaults took place – have told the bishop to present himself for further questioning by Sep. 19. Jalandhar is in Punjab state.
District Police Chief Hari Shankar told reporters the bishop will only be arrested if the evidence warrants it, and that the location of the interrogation has yet to be determined.
A group of nuns and members of various Catholic reform groups have been holding protests in Kochi, Kerala’s largest city, for over a week to demand the arrest of Mulakkal, who they claim is being protected by powerbrokers in the state.