Bishop Franco Mulakkal. CNA file photo.
Kochi, India, Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA). – A priest who had been a key witness in the charge of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur died Monday, prompting a police investigation into his death.
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, was found unconscious in his room on Oct. 22 at St Mary’s Church in Dasuya in Punjab, India. He had no visible signs of injury.
He was declared dead after being transported to a local hospital.
Kattuthara’s brother, Jose Kurian, expressed doubt about police reports that the priest might have succumbed to cardiac arrest.
“My brother had talked to me a week before the death. He had expressed fear that something may happen to him. We can’t believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest. He had no history of heart ailments,” Kurian told Firstpost.
The priest’s family petitioned for an autopsy and investigation. It was filed with the Alappuzha district superintendent of police, who forwarded it to Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister.
The priest had testified against Bishop Mulakkal, who was been arrested on Sept. 21 for allegedly raping a nun for over a course of two years. The nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, brought the accusation forward in June.
The priest provided testimony to police about the case several weeks ago. Local Catholics say that others who have testified against the bishop have faced threats of retaliation.
The nun said the abuse began in 2014 at her convent in Kuravilangad. The bishop has denied all accusations and was released on bail on October 15. He is awaiting trial.
Bishop Mulakkal told UCA News that the allegations were a retaliation against him because he acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct. He said she was having an affair with her cousin’s husband.
Three other women have accused the bishop of sexual misconduct. However, the Missionaries of Jesus’ superior general upholds the bishop’s innocence. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.