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Kochi: Priest Franco Mulakkal was Thursday grilled for more than eight hours by Kerala police over allegations of rape and unnatural sex levelled by a nun and he will be questioned for the third straight day on Friday, police said.
The Vatican has, meanwhile, divested Mulakkal, who was the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of Missionaries of Jesus despite shedding his administrative role, of his pastoral responsibilities “temporarily”, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said.
“We had decided to complete the interrogation today. But it could not be completed even after 7:30 pm. Verification is required in matters so far placed before the investigation team and that will be completed by Friday morning.
“Three teams will verify them. So, the investigation will continue tomorrow also. By tomorrow we will be able to complete the verification,” Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar said after the marathon questioning of the priest. Terming the interrogation as “positive”, he said Mulakkal has been issued a notice to appear before the SIT at 10:30 am.
Sources in the Special Investigating Team probing the case said the interrogation was likely to conclude tomorrow. He was questioned for over seven hours on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Kerala’s police chief Loknath Behera said the decision on whether to arrest Mulakkal will be taken in the next couple of days.
‘After examining him only a decision will be taken. Investigating team is examining him. Let us wait. A decision will be definitely taken today or tomorrow after the interrogation,’ Behera told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Amid the continued outrage over the alleged sexual assault of the nun, the CBCI said Pope Francis had temporarily relieved him of his pastoral responsibilities, a decision that was welcomed by the protesting nuns who termed the development as the “first victory” in their fight against the former bishop.
“The Pope appointed Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Bombay Agnelo Rufino Gracias as the Apostolic administrator of the diocese of Jalandhar with immediate effect,” a CBCI statement said.
The Pope took the decision in response to Mulakkal’s September 16 letter offering to “step aside temporarily” as the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council Spokesman Fr Varghese Vallikkattu told PTI.
CBCI president Cardinal Oswald Gracias said, “The Holy Father has received the request of Bishop Franco Mulakkal to be temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities in the diocese of Jalandhar.”
“Having considered all circumstances the Holy Father has accepted this request of Bishop Mulakkal and has appointed Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, Auxilary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Bombay as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Jalandhar… with immediate effect,” it said.
The group of nuns staging a protest here with representatives of various Catholic reform organisations seeking Mulakkal’s arrest and justice for the nun lauded the Pope’s decision. (PTI)