MUMBAI, India – A court in India has acquitted a Catholic bishop accused of raping a nun.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, in the state of Punjab, was arrested on Sept. 21, 2018, in Kerala after a months-long investigation into the accusations of a nun claiming he raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. He has adamantly denied the accusation.
The nun is a member of the Punjab-based Missionaries of Jesus congregation, but said the attacks happened in Kuravilangad, the location of one of the order’s convents in Kerala.
On Sept. 20, 2018, Pope Francis temporarily relieved Mulakkal of his pastoral duties for the Diocese of Jalandhar, and appointed the retired auxiliary of Mumbai, Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, apostolic administrator of the diocese
On Friday, Sessions Judge G. Gopakumar in Kottayam, Kerala, issued a brief order stating the bishop was not guilty of the charges.
Mulakkal was present in the courtroom, and told cheering supporters outside the building, “The Lord is supreme. Truth prevailed.”
The bishop has longed claimed the accusations were in retribution for initiating an investigation against her for an affair she allegedly had with a married man.
Superintendent of Police S. Harishankar, who supervised the investigation, said the verdict is “unbelievable.”
“We will definitely go for appeal. There is enough corroborative and circumstantial evidence. It is wrong to say there is not enough evidence. We are really disappointed. We will go for an appeal,” he said.
Public prosecutor Jithesh G Babu said the outcome was “really shocking.”
“We expected jail for the deposed bishop,” he said.