Rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s arrest leaves Christian community divided in Punjab
The arrest of bishop Franco Mulakkal for raping a nun got a mixed response in Jalandhar with some members of the Christian community distributing sweets and church representatives saying that the action was taken under pressure.
Kerala Police arrested Mulakkal in Kochi on the third day of questioning on Friday. The development came a day after Pope Francis and the Catholic Bishop Conference of India temporarily relieved Mulakkal of his pastoral responsibilities of the Jalandhar diocese.
Members of the local Punjab Christian Movement gathered outside the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where the residence of the bishop is located, and distributed sweets to celebrate the arrest.
“His actions have hurt the sentiments of our community. The Kerala high court should not give him bail on September 25,” said Hamid Masih, the movement’s president.
Masih alleged that the authorities should probe transaction of funds in the Jalandhar diocese in the past three months. “We suspect he used money for personal purposes,” he said.
Peter Sahota, a member of the Roman Catholic Union, said, “He has been punished for insulting Punjabis. After taking over in 2013, he said Punjabis are not fit to be appointed to the post of bishop. We have been opposing him since then.” Sahota said the bishop appointed for the Jalandhar diocese should be a Punjabi.
The Punjab Christian United Front, however, cited the bishop’s arrest as one made under pressure and condemned the distribution of sweets. “The Kerala police have arrested him due to the pressure of protesting nuns. The police don’t have any evidence,” said front president George Soni.
“Distributing sweets is condemned. Even if he is accused of rape, he is still our guru,” he said.
Vijay Goriya, the chairman of the Samson Brigade Christian Youth, Punjab, said the police should make evidence against the bishop public. “If the allegations are proved right, we are ready to boycott him. I don’t believe one who follows this path in our community can do such act,” he said.
Father Peter Kavumpuram, the bishop’s spokesperson, said the police should have waited till the hearing of the bail plea. “Truth will prevail. I’ve heard of fabricated documents being made. Perhaps the police are under pressure,” he said.
Members of the Christian community held a protest outside the church on Friday evening, raising slogans against the Kerala Police.