Pope relieves accused bishop of duty, police question him for 7 hours on Day 2

TRIPUNITHURA, Kerala/NEW DELHI: Pope Francis has relieved from duty an Indian bishop accused by a nun of raping her, local church officials said on Thursday, in a high-profile abuse case that sparked protests by clergy angry at police inaction.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has rejected the accusations, had written to the pope requesting he be temporarily relieved of his duties while an investigation was under way.
“Having considered all circumstances the Holy Father has accepted the request of Bishop Mulakkal,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said in a statement on Thursday.
Another bishop has been appointed temporarily in his stead, the statement read.
Meanwhile, Mulakkal was questioned for the second consecutive day on Thursday and has been asked to return on Friday, a police official said.
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, was questioned for seven hours near here at the Crime Branch office.
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar told the media they wanted to finish the interrogation on Thursday but could not do so.
“He has been asked to report at 10.30 am on Friday. We are now verifying the things that he has told us and there is no confusion. Our three teams will verify it by tomorrow.
“We have sought legal consultations on the anticipatory bail plea that he has moved and we expect to get the advice on this Friday,” Harishankar said, adding that by Friday, they will be able to take a holistic decision after looking into all aspects.
Accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, Mulakkal arrived at the Crime Branch office around 11 am, even as demands for his arrest grew. Nuns have been protesting in Kochi for 13 days.
The bishop spent the night at a plush hotel in Kochi.
He dodged a large media contingent waiting outside the hotel as he slipped away in a different car while the vehicle used on Wednesday was kept parked outside the hotel.
Like on Wednesday, Inspector General Vijay Sakhre, Harishankar and his deputy K Subhash held a meeting at the IG office in Kochi ahead of the interrogation.
The Kerala High Court has already agreed to hear Mulakkal’s anticipatory bail plea on September 25. A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016. — AFP/IANS