Protesting nuns vow to keep up demand for priest’s arrest even if the church decides to evict them
Thiruvananthapuram: A group of nuns on strike in Kerala, demanding arrest of the bishop of Jalandhar who is accused of raping one of their colleagues multiple times, have toughened their stand.
The nuns, protesting near the Kerala High Court in Kochi, said on Wednesday they planned to take their demand for the arrest of the bishop forward, even if the Catholic Church authorities decided to evict them from the church.
The nuns’ decision to continue their protest followed a statement by Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal that the nuns’ protest was part of “a conspiracy” to malign him and the church.
The nuns said the bishop’s latest statement was “baseless”.
They are expected to widen the scope of their protest, roping in people from different walks of life. On Wednesday, the protest was extended to the state capital, with a group supporting the nuns beginning their protest in front of the state secretariat.
The Kerala Region Latin Catholic Council said the bishop should have resigned when the allegation came up, and that the bishop’s conduct had brought shame to the Catholic Church.
The protest entered its fifth day on Wednesday, with the protestors coming together under the banner of ‘Save Our Sisters’ (SOS).
Among those who visited the nuns to offer their support were Congress leader Ajay Tharayil, Communist Party of India Marxist leader M.M. Lawrence, and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shobha Surendran.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran inaugurated the protest. Sudheeran alleged that the state director-general of police had become a mere puppet in the hands of the government.
Meanwhile, state lawmaker representing the Poonjar constituency, P.C. George offered an apology for his statement denouncing the nun who made the rape allegations, admitting that he had used words that should not have been used against any woman. His apology comes at a time when there was a likelihood of his arrest for the disparaging remarks against a rape survivor.
The MLA had been summoned by the National Commission for Women for his remarks against the nun, asking him to appear before it on September 20.
Meanwhile, the auxiliary bishop of Changanacherry diocese, Thomas Tharayil came in support of the bishop of Jalandhar.
Tharayil said in a social media post, “I have been taught to consider innocent anyone accused of a crime until he is proven guilty”.
The post attracted wide criticism on social media, with one of them saying he was well in line to be a bishop and another saying, ‘Birds of the same feather flock together’.
Kerala police have asked Bishop Mullakal to appear before the investigating team on September 19, Inspector General of police Vijay Sakhare said Wednesday.
The decision to summon the clergyman was taken after a meeting chaired by Sakhare, IG (Ernakulam range), which was also attended by Kottayam District Superintendent of Police Harisankar and Vaikom Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Subhash amid mounting pressure on police to initiate action against Mullakal.
The nun had recently sought urgent intervention of the Vatican for justice and demanded the bishop’s removal as the head of the Jalandhar diocese, questioning why the church was “closing its eyes to the truth” when she mustered courage to make public her sufferings.