NEWDELHI (Reuters) – The Vatican has accepted a request from a bishop in India to be temporarily relieved of his pastoral duties as police questioned him for a second day over accusations that he raped a nun.
In a letter seen by Reuters, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said Pope Francis had received the bishop’s request to be temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities.
The Vatican had accepted the request, the letter said.
The nun from the southern Indian state of Kerala has accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who heads the Diocese of Jalandhar, of raping her repeatedly over a period of two years.
The bishop has not been charged, but has given interviews denying wrongdoing and saying he wanted to defend his name. He wrote to the Vatican on Sunday asking to step down temporarily as protests and calls for his arrest grew in the state.
“Having considered all circumstances, the Holy Father has accepted this request,” the letter said.
The case comes at a time when the Christian community, which accounts for 19 percent of the state’s population, is reeling under an erosion of trust as sexual abuse cases involving the clergy pile up.
The Catholic Church faces crises worldwide involving sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.
(Reporting by Malini Menon; Editing by Euan Rocha and Nick Macfie)