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An Indian bishop, Franco Mulakkal, was charged on Tuesday with raping a nun several times between 2014 and 2016. The investigation was carried out in the district of the southern state of Kerala. Mulakkal — who would face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment if convicted — has denied the allegations. Franco Mulakkal also faces charges of unlawful detention, unnatural sex and abuse of authority.
Pope Francis publicly addressed the sexual abuse of nuns by clerics for the first time in February, insisting the Vatican take seriously reports of sexual abuse and the “sexual slavery” of nuns. "There have been priests and also bishops who have done that," the Pope said of sexually abusing nuns. "And I believe that it may still be being done. It's not a thing that from the moment in which you realize it, it's over. The thing goes forward like this. We've been working on this for a long time."
The nun lodged a complaint against Bishop Franco Mullackal on June 27th last year accusing the clergyman of sexually assaulting her over a period of two years starting in May 2014. The victim filed a complaint in June, but police only started formal questioning in September after the Indian Catholic nuns protested against the bishop accused of rape. The protest was fueled by an incendiary press conference in which a politician questioned the account of the bishop’s alleged victim, a 46-year-old nun, and described her as a prostitute.
“The church has not given us justice,” one of the nuns, Sister Anupama MJ, told the Times of India. “Neither have police or the government. We will fight. It was the church that forced us on to the streets.”
As the Guardian reports, Mulakkal was arrested in October before being released on bail. Senior members of the church in Kerala have supported the 55-year-old bishop, and he was cheered when he returned to his diocese.
The sister from the Jalandhar diocese in the state said repeated approaches to senior church officials were ignored: “When they realized that we wouldn’t back down, they had us transferred and then made false cases against our families,” she said. These included allegations they had made death threats against the accused bishop. Also, the sister insisted that the protests were not against the church but aimed “at certain figures who misused the holy powers vested in them...Other than truth as our weapon, we never had anything else on our side,” she added.