With pressure mounting, Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of rape by a nun in Kerala, has "handed over" charge of his duties and responsibilities to fellow priests on Saturday. "I am likely to be called for further clarifications by investigating officers in Kerala. I appoint Rev. Fr. Joseph Thekkumkattil and Rev. Fr. Subin Thekkedathu (for administrative charges of the diocese)," said Bishop Mulakkal in a letter.
However, he will continue to be the spiritual leader of Missionaries of Jesus, the congregation to which both the bishop and the victim-nun belong to.
The Vatican, the highest authority of the Catholic Church, has reportedly consituted a one-member panel to investigate the allegations against the bishop. Reports suggest that the accusations against Bishop Mulakkal was brought to the notice of the Vatican after Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, met Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It is speculated that this has resulted in the hesitant bishop transfering his responsibilities to the priests.
Earlier, media had reported that Cardinal Gracias was of the opinion that Bishop Mulakkal "should step down and let an inquiry against him unfold".
In light of Bishop Mulakkal handing over his charges, a meeting has been convened by bishops and archbishops at Chandigarh on Saturday to decide the further course.
Meanwhile, the sit-in protest by nuns at the Kerala High Court entered the eighth day on Saturday with support pouring in from various factions.