A group of nuns have continued sit-in for a fifth day in the southern Indian state of Kerala, demanding action against a Bishop accused of sexually assaulting a Catholic nun.
A 46-year-old nun, from the Catholic Congregation Missionaries of Jesus, has alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal, head of the Jalandhar diocese in northern Punjab state, raped her repeatedly between 2014-2016 at a convent in Kerala.
“Arrest this man who is a culprit, that’s the demand of the nun who was raped. She has given a statement to the police saying she was raped. Why is the government hesitating to arrest this rapist?” Felix J Pulludan, secretary at the Joint Christian Council, told Al Jazeera.
“Four nuns are sitting in protest near the High Court in Kochi against injustice done to the sister. Our protests will grow stronger in the coming days. The government must act now,” Pulludan, protest organiser of “Save our Sisters”, said from the protest site in front of the High Court in Kochi, Kerala’s largest city.
It’s the latest scandal in the Catholic church’s continuing sexual abuse crisis globally.
The accused denies all allegations against him and said the nun, who had worked with him earlier, was trying to blackmail him after he took disciplinary action against her.
On Tuesday, the nun wrote to the Vatican’s envoy to India, Reverend Giambattista Diquattro, alleging the accused Bishop and his close associates “are using the wealth of the diocese to divert” the probe.
The Vatican embassy in Delhi refused to answer queries relating to the case.
The Roman Catholic religious order, the Missionaries of Jesus, said in a statement on Monday that the protesting nuns were trying “to crucify an innocent man”.
“We condemn the act by the sisters of our congregation who are protesting outside the High Court. As far as our congregation is concerned, we are ashamed and saddened by this protest,” read the press release put out by the Missionaries of Jesus.
The nun lodged a police complaint on June 27 but the police are yet to arrest the accused priest. A local court will hear the case on Thursday in Kochi.
Protest organisers say they are up against the might and clout of the Church but they will not back down in the face of intimidation.
Inspector General of Police in Kerala state Dinendra Kashyap told Al Jazeera the probe is ongoing but refused to divulge details.
“No doubt he is using the clout of the Roman Catholic Church. The accused is using money and muscle power to influence the probe,” Pulludan, the protest organiser, said.
Indian broadcaster NDTV quoted the brother of the nun as saying he was offered a bribe to withdraw the complaint. The Herald.