Cardinal questioned by police in Indian rape inquiry

Bishop accused of raping nun has not been contacted by police or any church authorities
Cardinal questioned by police in Indian rape inquiry

Cardinal George Alencherry greets Pope Francis when they met at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica June 29. Cardinal Alencherry has been interviewed by police as part of their investigation into a nun's claim that she was raped by a bishop. (Photo supplied)

Indian police have questioned Cardinal George Alencherry as part of their investigation into a nun's claim that she was raped by a bishop.

The major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church told police on July 18 that he had not received any complaint from the nun about sexual abuse, police officials told media.

Police in Kerala are investigating the June 29 petition of a 48-year-old Kerala nun, who accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar in Punjab state of raping her four years ago while on a visit to Kerala and of abusing her 13 more times over the following two years.

"The cardinal's stand is consistent throughout. The nun has discussed some difficulties in her convent but he received no complaint about sex abuse by any bishop," Father Jimmy Poochakkatt, a Syro-Malabar Church spokesman, told ucanews.com.

Police said they questioned the cardinal following the nun's statement that she had complained to the cardinal about the abuse a year ago but he refused to act on it.

Under Indian law, it is a crime not to report cases of violence against women or children to police.

Some media reports said the nun has given police a copy of the complaint she submitted to the cardinal. But the cardinal and church officials have consistently denied having received any such complaint.

The nun is former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under Bishop Mulakkal. Both the nun and the bishop originally belonged to the cardinal's Eastern-rite church but joined the Latin-rite mission diocese of Jalandhar. The nun now lives in Kerala and heads a convent of the same congregation.

Father Poochakkatt said the Eastern-rite cardinal has no jurisdiction over the bishop or nun. The cardinal has directed the nun to take her case to the appropriate church forums, he said.

Three weeks after police began the investigation, Bishop Mulakkal has not been contacted by police or any church authorities, Jalandhar diocesan chancellor Father Jose Sebastian told ucanews.com on July 18.

"So far, no police have questioned Bishop Mulakkal or visited the bishop's house for investigations. Within the church also, the bishop is not facing any probe," Father Jose Sebastian said.

Police officer K. Subash, who is leading the investigation, confirmed that police have yet to interview the bishop but said officers from Kerala may visit Jalandhar next week.

A TV channel in Kerala has released a recording claimed to be of a telephone conversation between Cardinal Alencherry and the nun.

The nun is heard referring to the continued harassment she and others suffer within the congregation, and the cardinal suggested she complain to Latin-rite bishops' conference head Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai.

The nun then seeks his help to get an appointment with Cardinal Gracias but Cardinal Alencherry refuses to do so. "You go to Mumbai and approach him directly," the cardinal says.

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"Will you let us down then?" the nun asks, and the cardinal makes no assurances, saying a decision will be taken by others.

Meanwhile, Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a senior priest, told a Malayalam newspaper that several nuns who left the congregation have complained to him about Bishop Mulakkal.

"The nuns are not speaking out because they are afraid the bishop will act against them," said the priest, a former vocational trainer for the nun's congregation.

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