Following public protests, Indian police have arrested Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal on suspicion of repeatedly raping a nun. The cleric described the charges as a conspiracy against the church.
Police in the Indian state of Kerala arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal on Friday on suspicion of sexually exploiting a nun between 2014 and 2016.
"He is charged with rape," said inspector general Vijay Sakhare in the city of Kochi.
The 44-year-old woman, a member of the order of Missionaries of Jesus, filed a police complaint against Mulakkal in June. In it, she says Mulakkal first raped her in May 2014 and then proceeded to sexually assault her several times during the next two years. The nun also said that Catholic Church officials had ignored her complaints, prompting her to go to the police.
Nuns stage a rally
Kochi police had interrogated the 54-year-old Mulakkal for three days before announcing his arrest.
The bishop had publically denied the accusations, saying that the nun was angry over disciplinary measures he had ordered against her. He also called the issue an anti-Church conspiracy.
Mulakkal's case prompted rare public protests by nuns outside a courthouse in Kochi earlier this month. Backed by activists and students, the nuns demanded the bishop be prosecuted.
Separately, the nun wrote to the Vatican's representative in New Delhi, asking for Mulakkal to be removed and accusing the bishop of "using political and money power to bury the case."
On Mulakkal's request, the Vatican temporarily relieved the cleric of his duties on Thursday.
Catholic priest arrested over rape of a minor
Kerala boasts around 6.5 million Christians among the state's 33-million strong population.
In July, two local Orthodox priests were arrested for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman for over 20 years, and another Catholic priest was arrested for raping a 17-year-old girl last year.
India is still struggling to curb sexual violence, an issue which took center stage after a deadly 2012 rape in New Delhi. Separately, the Catholic Church is under fire internationally over evidence of decadeslong sexual abuse of children by its clergy.
dj/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)