Catholic bishop in India charged with rape tests positive for coronavirus

Franco Mulakkal CNA Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur, who has been charged with the rape of a nun, has tested positive for coronavirus. The announcement comes as his bail was cancelled after he failed to appear at trial.

The bishop has been charged with raping a nun repeatedly over the course of two years, allegations he denies.

Officials of India's Punjab state, where Bishop Mulakkal resides, announced July 14 that he had tested positive for coronavirus. He is displaying symptoms of Covid-19, The Indian Express reported.

A court in Kerala had on July 13 cancelled his bail and issued a warrant for his arrest. He had failed to appear before the court both that day and July 1.

The court in Kerala has ordered that he appear before it Aug. 13.

The bishop did not appear at court in the beginning of July saying that Jalandhar was within a coronavirus containment zone. But prosecutors demonstrated that according to the city's administration, his residence was within the containment zone on July 1, according to Hindustan Times.

The Tribune India reported July 9 that a priest of the Jullundur diocese claimed Bishop Mulakkal had sought permission from the district administration to travel to Kerala for the court hearing and was denied. Both Jalandhar's Deputy Commissioner and a local health official denied receiving such a request.

Bishop Mulakkal's lawyer had tested positive for coronavirus July 3, and the bishop then began a 14 day quarantine July 6.

The Kerala High Court dismissed a petition July 7 to dismiss the case against Bishop Mulakkal. A trial court had dismissed a similar petition in March.

The bishop's charges stem from a member of the Missionaries of Jesus who has said he raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

Bishop Mulakkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation of the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail.

The bishop has claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun's sexual misconduct. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin's husband.

The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. He faces imprisonment of 10 years to life if found guilty.

A witness in the case against the bishop, who is also a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, told investigators Sept. 9, 2018 that from 2015 to 2017 she participated in sexual video chats with the bishop, having been pressured by him, and that he groped and kissed her April 30, 2017, at a convent in Kannur.

This second alleged victim did not wish to press charges, but there have been calls for police in Kerala to bring a suo motu case against Bishop Mulakkal.

Bishop Mulakkal was temporarily removed from the administration of his diocese shortly before his arrest.

More in Asia - Pacific

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.