Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was acquitted by a Kerala trial court in 2022, after being accused of raping a nun, met Pope Francis in Vatican, a church source told PTI in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, 14 February.
The meeting happened on 8 February. It was the first time the bishop met the Pope after his acquittal in the rape case.
"The Pope was happy to see him, was glad to hear that we won the case, and consoled him for his suffering by encouraging him to join his (the Pope’s) suffering with that of the Lord."The source told PTI
What do we know about the case?
In June 2018, a Kerala nun filed a rape case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal. He was accused of raping the nun multiple times during his visit to her convent in Kottayam between 2014 and 2016, when he was the bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese.
Soon after, in August 2018, the Joint Christian Council launched a hunger strike in Kochi, demanding the arrest of Mulakkal.
The arrest: In September 2018, the police arrested the bishop and remanded him to judicial custody. He was temporarily relieved of his responsibilities for the diocese by Pope Francis after Mulakkal was questioned by the Kerala police over rape charges levelled by the nun.
Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the Jalandhar Diocese, launched a probe against six nuns, including the survivor, who were demanding the arrest of Bishop Mulakkal.
What did the verdict say? In January 2022, the Additional District and Sessions Court I in Kottayam, Kerala, pronounced a verdict acquitting him of sexual assault charges. The nun, who claims to have been raped by the bishop, has moved the Kerala High Court against his acquittal in the case by the trial court.
Adding that the bishop is directly under the command of the Pope, the source also added, "He (the bishop) will obey whatever the Holy Father decides." The authority for fixing his responsibilities rests with the Vatican. The Vatican had earlier accepted the court’s decision, acquitting him of rape charges."