Some news reports had suggested that the Vatican was prepared to accept the lower court’s verdict acquitting him in the rape case, and that he could be reinstated as bishop of Jalandhar.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal recently made headlines with reports that he is likely to be reinstated as Bishop of Jalandhar after the Vatican is ready to accept the verdict of an Indian court that acquitted him in a case of rape. However, sources in the Church of Kerala as well as Jalandhar say the news is “self-generated” propaganda by Bishop Franco and his followers, and there is no initiative to reinstate him.
Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, reportedly said on June 11 that the Vatican had accepted the Kottayam Supplementary Sessions Court’s order dated January 15, 2022, acquitting Bishop Franco of the rape of a nun between 2014 and 2016. The nun is from the Missionaries of Jesus Nunnery in Kuruvilangad, inside Kottayam district of Kerala, and filed a recourse against Acquittal of Franco by the tribunal de grande instance in March.
“Accordingly, Bishop Franco is innocent and free from all charges. He is a citizen of India and the Vatican abides by the local court’s decision,” the nuncio was quoted as saying in an article in Matters India. Bishop Franco headed Jalandhar Diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, headquartered in Kochi, Kerala. The Apostolic Nunciature (papal ambassador) to India in September 2018 had agreed to Franco’s request to temporarily relieve him of his religious duties.
However, James Sandhu, former chairman of the parish council of Holy Trinity Church in Jalandhar, who was present during the nuncio’s two-day visit to Jaladhar, told TNM that the Franco case was not even on the table. ‘agenda. “Here in Jalandhar, there are priests who support Franco, and I believe this is propaganda planted by them,” he alleged. “Franco’s reappointment is pending with the Vatican. And as long as the case is pending in the High Court or the Supreme Court of India, he cannot be reinstated,” he added.
“If anyone is lobbying for Bishop Franco, it’s him. Nunico’s visit was friendly. One of the priests asked the nuncio that while the court was checking whether it was rape, the church would consider it as a violation of the sixth commandment (celibacy). The priest also asked how a bishop can continue in office if there is a violation of the sixth commandment. Then the nuncio said that the church would accept the court order because he (Bishop Franco) is an Indian citizen, but since there is an appeal that will be considered in this way. Then the priest asked a second question: what is the position of the church on the sixth commandment, since it could set a precedent. Then the response was that the church will look into the matter,” a source from Jalandhar church told TNM.
The source added: “In all the conversations, there was no intention expressed that the Vatican would reinstate him or give him a good net, nor that he would be eligible to return. This is a pure hoax planted by the Bishop Franco to make him a saint. It is true that the nuncio said that the court order would be respected because Bishop Franco is an Indian citizen, but the nuncio did not say anything about his reinstatement; it is his own creation of Bishop Franco. The nuncio is also told that the matter is in court (referring to the appeal) and the church also accepts this. In Jalandhar, no one wants him back.
Meanwhile, Save Our Sisters (SOS), a forum formed to support the surviving nun and those who support her, has written to the Vatican asking it not to reinstate Franco as bishop of Jalandhar, until the appeal against the judgment of the lower court to be heard and decided by the Kerala High Court. The letter is addressed to Pope Francis.
“The nun recounted the acts of rape and unnatural sexual acts perpetrated on the person of the nun. The bishop under the pretext of alibi says that he did not stay in the convent on the 5th and 6th turns out to be false. Thus, the case is proven without the need for additional evidence. But, there are many other proofs, by the oral and written confessions of the bishop. Thus, the rape case remains absolutely proven and the ‘kidnapping and attempted murder case’ of the accused Bishop is dismissed as totally false,” SOS argued in the letter. “All the eminent lawyers who have studied the judgment (of the trial court) are of the unanimous opinion that the judgment is very bad and will only have a short lifespan because it will be overturned on appeal,” he said. -he adds.
Lily: The Vatican must respect the law of the land before deciding to reinstate Bishop Franco