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Rape-accused Indian bishop tests positive for Covid-19

Suspicions raised as result came on same day bail was revoked and an arrest warrant was issued by trial court

UCA News Reporter

UCA News Reporter

Updated: July 15, 2020 03:59 PM GMT
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Rape-accused Indian bishop tests positive for Covid-19

Bishop Franco Mulakkal continues to live in the Jalandhar bishop's house while maintaining the title as he has not yet been suspended. (Photo supplied)

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An Indian bishop, facing court proceedings on charges of raping a nun, has tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day a trial court cancelled his bail and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese in the northern Punjab state "tested positive for Covid-19 as per the medical report," diocesan administrator Bishop Agnelo Gracias told UCA News on July 15.

Bishop Mulakkal could be moved "to government facilities, and sanitization of the bishop's house will be done as per the Covid-19 protocols while government officials decide what to do next," Bishop Gracias said.

According to the medial report, Bishop Mulakkal was tested positive for Covid-19 on July 13, hours before a court in southern Kerala cancelled his bail application issued an arrest warrant following his continuous failure to appear before the court.

On July 13 the bishop's counsel told the court that his client failed to appear on that day because he was under quarantine. State officials asked the bishop to go on quarantine after a lawyer he consulted turned positive, the lawyer told the court.

However, the medical report has come under suspicion, as even after testing positive for Covid-19, the bishop continued to stay in the bishop's house, and no restrictions were imposed on people living in it.

"It seems to be yet another gimmick from Mulakkal to evade arrest," said Riju Kanjookaran, the convener of Save Our Sisters (SOS), a lay movement formed to support the rape victim after Catholic Church leadership backed the accused bishop.

Kanjookaran also noted holes in the report, alleging that the test's process--from collecting the bishop's swab sample to releasing the positive result--took two-hours barely.

"And, it happened on the same day the trial court in Kerala cancelled his bail and issued an arrest warrant.

Quoting from his test result details, Kanjookarna said Mulakkal's swab was sent for testing at 12:10:57 with the result coming back at 14:05:57 the same day from a government hospital.

"This urgency with which this result was obtained is a case of suspicion as there was no such need for Mulakkal or the hospital to speed up his test as he was not a critical patient.

"Despite the bishop testing positive, no security mechanism from the government was put in place to stop people visiting. No one residing there was asked to go into quarantine, and no sanitization was done," he said.

The bishop is facing trial on rape charges after a Catholic nun, the former superior of the Missionaries of Jesus — an indigenous diocesan congregation under Bishop Mulakkal — accused him in June 2018 of raping her four years ago.

The nun alleged the bishop sexually abused her more than 13 times over two years during his visits to Kerala, where the congregation has a convent.

The district and sessions court in Kottayam on July 13 also scheduled the next hearing for Aug. 13.

Kerala police filed a 2,000-page charge sheet against Bishop Mulakkal in April 2019.

Police arrested the bishop on Sept. 21, 2018, a fortnight after five nuns of the same congregation as the complainant staged a sit-in in Kochi. He was released on bail three weeks later on Oct. 15.

The bishop continues to live in the Jalandhar bishop's house while maintaining the title as he has not yet been suspended. The Vatican has, however, appointed an apostolic administrator to run the diocese.

The case has 83 witnesses, including Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church.

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