Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Indian bishop cleared in early 2022 of charges of raping a religious sister in his diocese.
The resignation of the 59-year-old Bishop Franco Mulakkal as head of the Diocese of Jalandhar comes more than 16 months after his acquittal by a court in India’s Kerala state in January 2022.
The judge in the case found that “the prosecution failed to prove all the charges against the accused.”
The Vatican did not indicate whether it carried out its own investigation into the accusations against Mulakkal, who has denied the claims and contends he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities at the accuser’s convent.
A religious sister with the Missionaries of Jesus accused the bishop of raping 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 Jalandhar Diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal was its patron.
Malukkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation into the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail.
The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. After Malukkal tried to get the charges dropped pretrial, the Kerala High Court found there was enough evidence to proceed.
He was cleared of all charges by the Kottayam court on Jan. 14, 2022.
Malukkal had also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he had acted against the sister’s sexual misconduct. He said the sister was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.
Mulakkal was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Jalandhar in 1990. In 2009, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Delhi.
He became bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar in June 2013.