'Will continue to stand with rape survivor': Kerala nuns who spoke against Franco Mulakkal defiant after being told to leave convent

The four nuns who protested against rape accused bishop Franco Mulakkal were on Wednesday asked to leave the Kuravilangad convent by the Missionaries of Jesus. The notice sent to the nuns, which included a reminder regarding their transfer orders issued in May 2018, comes just a week after the appointment of a special public prosecutor by the Kerala government. This move may slow down the trial of bishop Mulakkal in which the nuns might testify.

Will continue to stand with rape survivor: Kerala nuns who spoke against Franco Mulakkal defiant after being told to leave convent

The Kerala nuns who protested against rape accused bishop Franco Mulakkal. Firstpost/TK Devasia

The notice sent by Sister Rejeena Kadamthott, mother general of Missionaries of Jesus, stated that the nuns' actions violated the congregation's code of conduct and were against the traditions and values of the Church and Canon law. "Even as you and a few other MJ members continue to feel no qualms in issuing mala fide public statements and circulate baseless stories tarnishing the image of the MJ congregation and portraying the mother general and other members as 'enemies of those who are fighting for their justice', I have been ensuring that the congregation continues supporting you all with food, accommodation and cost of medical treatment as required", the letter to Sister Josephine read.

All four nuns were sent separate letters, which stated that they ignored a previous transfer order dated May 2018 and continued to live in the convent.

As per the 2018 transfer order, Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, who led the agitation, was transferred to Punjab; Sister Josephine Villoonnickal to Jharkhand; Sister Alphy Pallasseril was transferred to Bihar and Sister Ansitta Urumbil to a convent in Kannur district. Sister Nina Rose, who took part in the protest at Vanchi Square near the Kerala High Court, was not included in the notice issued from the Missionaries of Jesus headquarters in Punjab's Jalandhar.

But Sister Anupama struck a defiant note. "We will reply to the letter of the mother general," she said. "We will not leave the convent." Sister Anupama added that whatever the consequences, the nuns would continue to stay at the Kuravilangad convent. "We feel this is a disciplinary action against us," she said. The notice, served to the nuns on 10 January — the day after the special public prosecutor was appointed — was dated 3 January.

Speaking to the media, the nuns said the notice was issued to "weaken the case" against bishop Mulakkal. They also accused the Church of wanting to split them up, weaken their unity and of mentally torturing the survivor. "We will continue to stand with the survivor," the nuns told the media.

The Kerala High Court recently directed the police to offer the nuns protection in light of some threatening phone calls. The police protection was later withdrawn due to "practical considerations" involving the convent. The police even asked the authorities to have a separate, safe room for the nuns, but this was not implemented. The nuns are reportedly being sidelined at the convent.

Sister Lucy Kalappura, the nun who recently received a letter stating she had "violated the rules of the congregation by spending money without permission and knowledge of her superiors" from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, dubbed the notice "cruel" and said it was intended to "mentally weaken the survivor". "This is a disciplinary action," Sister Lucy said. "The world is seeing the acts of the Kerala Catholic Church, which is against humanity. The notice is clear evidence of the Church's anti-democratic and anti-woman attitude, and this shows the strong hold bishop Mulakkal still has in the Church hierarchy."

In November 2018, bishop Jacob Manathodath, the Apostolic Administrator of Ernakulam (Ankamali Archdiocese), issued a letter of warning to Father Augustine Vattoly, who led the Vanchi Square agitation against bishop Mulakkal. The Kerala government arrested bishop Mulakkal after a huge public outcry. Bishop Mulakkal is now in Jalandhar after being granted conditional bail by the Kerala High Court.

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Updated Date: Jan 17, 2019 02:04:04 IST

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