MUMBAI, India – The Vatican has accepted the verdict of an Indian court declaring the innocence of a bishop accused of raping a nun, according to the papal representative to the country, who added the bishop’s future “is not in my hands, but with Rome.”

Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli was speaking about Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar during a visit to the diocese, located in Punjab state.

Mulakkal 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, where the bishop was born.

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.

The bishop maintains that the case stems from the nun’s personal vendetta against him for initiating disciplinary action against her for violations of norms and financial misappropriation.

A local Kerala court cleared Mulakkal on Jan. 14, on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove the charges against him. However, the decision was appealed to the Kerala High Court in April.

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Girelli made a two-day pastoral visit to the Diocese of Jalandhar over the weekend, and spoke to the clergy of the diocese on June 11.

According to Matters India, the apostolic nuncio said the Vatican accepted the decision of the Indian court and told the clergy of the diocese, “Accordingly, Bishop Franco is innocent and free of all charges.”

“With regards to the future, it is not in my hands but with Rome. Let us wait for it patiently,” Girelli said.

The Mulakkal case has caused a series of protests by nuns in Kerala, which is considered the heartland of Christianity in India. Nearly 20 percent of the southern state’s 34 million people are Christian, and clergy and religious from the state serve across the country.

The organization “Save Our Sisters” – founded in 2018 – has accused church authorities of trying to punish religious sisters who supported the woman making the accusations against Mulakkal.