Authorities in India arrested a bishop Friday for allegedly sexually abusing a nun at a convent in the Indian state of Kerala 13 times between 2014 and 2016.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, 54, of Jalandhar has dismissed the allegations as “concocted,” reportedly claiming the accusations are a “cooked up story to wreak vengeance” for the actions taken by him on various complaints received against the victim, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reported on Friday.
Before the Catholic leader’s arrest, BPCA noted, “Bishop Franco Mulakkal has been temporarily removed from his post 2.5 months after the allegations surfaced, in a slow action that has been condemned by many Indian people of all diversities.”
The unnamed 44-year-old nun logged a complaint with local police in June, claiming that the Catholic Church had failed to take action despite repeated appeals, BBC reported.
“At first I had reported the attack to the superiors in the church, but after my call for justice fell on deaf ears, I was forced to report the crime to the Police,” the nun proclaimed, according to BPCA.
The nun has reportedly faced backlash for reporting the bishop to authorities.
State politician P.C. George has reportedly dismissed the nun as a “prostitute,” adding, ”Why didn’t she complain the first time?”
“The case has polarized people into supporters of the bishop and supporters of the nun,” BPCA pointed out. “There were further complaints of harassment against the sister who says she has received death threats and had the brakes tampered with on her motorcycle.”
The Catholic Church in India has reportedly “reprimanded” nuns who have participated in a sit-in protest for the alleged victim.
Some news outlets have described the bishop’s arrest as unprecedented.
The National Catholic Reporter noted that Mulakkal “is the first Catholic bishop to be arrested in a sexual abuse case against a nun in India,” adding:
The 5 p.m. arrest occurred after 15 hours of police questioning spanning days at a high-tech interrogation cell in Thrippunithura, a suburb of Kochi, the commercial hub of Kerala. The case emerged on June 28 when a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese, accused the prelate of subjecting her to rape and unnatural sex on 13 occastions over a two-year period at her convent in Kuravilangad, south of Kochi.
A statement released by the Catholic Bishop Conference of India revealed that the Vatican had accepted the bishop’s request to “temporarily” step down to fight the accusations.
“The Holy Father has received the request of Rt. Rev. Bishop Franco Mulakkal to be temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities in the Diocese of Jullundur,” the bishop conference stated, according to BPCA.
“Having considered all circumstances, the Holy Father has accepted this request of Bishop Mulakkal and has appointed the Rt. Rev. Agnelo Rufino Gracias” to take over, it added.
Kerala is reportedly home to one of oldest Christian communities in the world. Followers of Christ are a minority in India where persecution against Christians has intensified in recent years, according to Open Doors.