ucanews.com reporter, KochiUpdated: January 18, 2019 03:37 AM GMT
Sister Anupama (center) attends a public protest in Kochi in the southern Indian state of Kerala in September 2018 seeking the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal. (Photo by Christopher Joseph/ucanews.com)
Four of the five Catholic nuns who protested against an Indian bishop accused of rape have been asked to move back to their original convents.
They say the move is part of an attempt to weaken their united action and dilute the case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
A 44-year-old nun, former superior of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, complained to police in the southern state of Kerala in June 2018 that Bishop Mulakkal raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016.
Five other nuns, who belong to the congregation that functions under the bishop's patronage, held a public protest in Kochi in Kerala in September calling for the 54-year-old bishop's arrest. He was arrested on Sept. 21 but a court bailed him on Oct. 15 and he returned to Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab.
Bishop Mulakkal has consistently denied all the allegations and claimed that the nun is taking revenge against him for initiating disciplinary action against her violation of her religious vows of obedience and chastity.
Sister Anupama, one of the protesting nuns, said the congregation’s superior had asked four nuns including herself to return to their communities.
"This is an attempt to weaken the case and break our unity," she told ucanews.com on Jan. 16. "We are not going anywhere until our sister gets justice."
The nuns who protested in Kerala claimed that police had been slow to act against the bishop.
The alleged victim claims the bishop raped her multiple times when he visited her at a convent in Kerala's Kottayam district.
Four nuns came to support the complainant from their convents in Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab and northern Kerala. The fifth one was based in the same convent as the alleged victim in Kerala.
"Since then we have been treated as rebels and no one was supporting us from within the congregation," said Sister Anupama.
The Vatican removed Bishop Mulakkal from administrative duties of his diocese and appointed an administrator two days ahead of his arrest.
A Jan. 3 letter from Superior Sister Regina Kadamthottu appealed to the four nuns "to return to your own community and take up your assigned responsibility as befitting" to the nuns of the congregation.
The congregation and its members "do not intend to make any sort of intervention or interference into the due process of law and justice" connected with the case, the letter said. They can appear before investigation officers and courts when needed, it said.
The letter also requested the nuns to not make the case an excuse "to compromise our affirmed religious values and principles of religious life."
Sister Anupama said: "They are aware that they cannot break our unity as long as we live together and now it their latest ploy to separate us to weaken the case in favor of the bishop."