Kerala nuns who stood up against rape accused ex-bishop Franco face eviction
Four nuns from the Missionaries of Jesus congregation who supported a fellow nun who accused a bishop of rape last year have been asked by church authorities to leave the convent in Kerala and return to the vocations they were previously assigned to, according to letters they received from the congregation.
But the nuns -- Sister Alphy Pallasseril, Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, Sister Josephine Villoonnickal and Sister Ancitta Urumbil -- have refused to vacate the convent in Kuravilangad, Kottayam and alleged the transfer order is the latest in a series of attempts to weaken the case against former bishop Franco Mullakkal of the Jalandhar diocese .
“Though we are leading a secluded life in the convent, we don’t have any plan to move out. It is a plan aimed at isolating us and weakening the case. Convent authorities have made our lives miserable but we will not dump our fellow nun and will go ahead with the case,” said Sister Anupma, adding that three other nuns had received similar letters. “There were many attempts to smoke us out. The latest is one of them. But we will remain in the convent and take the case to its logical end.”
Sister Nina Rose, the fifth nun who took part in the protests, has not been transferred, Sister Anupama said.
Last June, a 43-year-old Mother Superior complained to the police that Mullakkal raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. In the weeks that followed, the five nuns staged a sit-in protest in Kochi seeking the bishop’s arrest. A special investigation team finally apprehended him in September after several rounds of questioning. He was granted bail after three weeks in judicial custody. The trial is yet to start. Last week the government appointed a special prosecutor after the nuns threatened to resume protests.
In a letter dated January 3, Superior General Regina Kadamthottu of the Missionaries of Jesus directed Sister Anupama to immediately leave the convent in Kerala. “You have chosen in your own individual capacity to support and pursue the legal battle in Crime no 746/2018 in Kuravilaangad police station. Our congregation does not want to make any sort of intervention in the due process of law and you shall be free to carry on the judicial process as and when required. You are urged not to make your legal obligation an alibi to compromise our affirmed religious vows and principles of community life,” said the letter, a copy of which has been seen by HT.
Sister Regina in December wrote a letter to the police saying the convent doesn’t have financial resources to continue protection to the victim and five other nuns and they should be shifted to a government-run home.
One of the key witnesses in the case, Father Kattuthara, was found dead in Jalandhar under mysterious circumstances in November.
Sister Anupama has been asked to relocate to Chamiyari community in Punjab, where she was transferred in March, Sister Ancitta has been asked to go back to the Pariyaram community in Kannur, where she was shifted in May, Sister Alphy has been asked to rejoin the community in Bihar’s Pakartala, while Sister Josephine has been accused of “abandoning the community” , in Jharkhand’s Lalmatia and ordered to go back there.
Sister Regina was not available to comment. A spokesman of the congregation described the transfers as routine. A spokesman for Save Our Sisters, which is espousing the cause of the nuns, said the group will oppose moves to weaken the case and fight for the nuns.