September 21, 2018 / 5:17 PM / 3 months ago

Indian bishop arrested on charges of raping nun - police

Bishop Franco Mulakkal (2nd R), accused of raping a nun, is escorted by police outside a crime branch office on the outskirts of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, India, September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

KOCHI, India (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic bishop was arrested in the south Indian state of Kerala on Friday on charges of raping a nun, police said, a day after the Vatican accepted the bishop’s request to be temporarily relieved of his duties.

There was no immediate comment from Bishop Franco Mulakkal or his lawyers - though he has denied the charges in interviews in the past.

Mulakkal, who heads the diocese of Jalandhar, wrote to the Vatican on Sunday asking to step down temporarily as protests and calls for his arrest grew. The Vatican accepted his request on Thursday.

“He is charged with rape,” said Kochi’s inspector general of police, Vijay Sakhare.

A Vatican spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the matter.

The arrest comes at a time when the state’s Christian community is reeling from a string of cases - including the arrests of five priests last month on allegations of sexual assault. Their church said it believed the priests were innocent.

Outside India, the Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia, Germany and other countries.

Pope Francis has summoned the heads of national Catholic bishops from around the world to the Vatican to discuss the protection of minors at an extraordinary meeting from Feb. 21-24.

Mulakkal, 54, was ordained as a priest in 1990 in the northern Indian Punjab state and was elevated as the bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar five years ago.

Reporting by Sivaram V. in KOCHI; Malini Menon in NEW DELHI; Editing by Euan Rocha and Andrew Heavens

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