Bishop Franco Mulakkal (File Photo-Mathrubhumi Archives)
Thiruvananthapuram: Decks have been cleared for former Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal's return to the pastoral duties, as the Vatican has accepted a Kerala court's decision, acquitting him of rape charges by a nun, a church source said on Sunday.
In September 2018, the Bishop was temporarily relieved of his responsibilities of the diocese by Pope Francis after he was questioned by the Kerala police over rape charges levelled by the nun. According to the source, during his visit to Jalandhar diocese on Saturday, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, informed the priests of the north Indian diocese that the Vatican has accepted the court's decision on Bishop Franco.
The Apostolic nuncio said this to a group of priests of Jalandhar diocese in response to a query regarding the delay in Vatican accepting Indian court's decision on rape charges against Bishop Franco, the well informed source told PTI.
Asked whether Bishop Franco would return to Jalandhar diocese to serve as its Bishop, the source said since the Bishop is directly under the command of the Pope, the authority of fixing his responsibilities rest with the "Holy Sea" itself.
The Vatican's decision to accept the court verdict came four months after the Additional District and Sessions Court I, Kottayam, acquitted the bishop, saying the prosecution failed to produce evidence against the accused. The nun, who claims to have been raped by the Bishop has moved the Kerala High Court against his acquittal in the case by a trial court. The 57-year-old Bishop was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to a convent in Kottayam between 2014 and 2016 when he was the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese. The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese.