An Indian bishop accused of raping a nun was granted bail on Monday (15) in a case that has triggered rare dissent within the country’s Catholic Church.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested on 21 September in the southern state of Kerala on suspicion of raping the nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016.
Pope Francis suspended him the day before his arrest, appointing another bishop in his place.
Mulakkal, 53, who headed the diocese of Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab, has denied the allegations and has called the scandal a conspiracy against the church.
The nun first made the allegations in June but police only started formal questioning in September as fury over the case mounted.
The lack of action provoked outrage and five nuns – in a rare public show of dissent within the Indian Church – and dozens of supporters staged days of protests.
Senior members of the Kerala Church have however come out in support of Mulakkal.
The bishop had previously been denied bail and kept in police custody for further questioning.
Failure by Church officials to take action on sexual abuse allegations has been one of the biggest scandals to hit Roman Catholicism globally in recent years.
Christians – overwhelmingly Catholic – are the third-largest religious group in India. Around 80 percent of the country’s 1.25 billion population is Hindu, followed by a sizeable Muslim minority.
The allegations against Mulakkal come as the global #MeToo movement is gaining traction in India, with women alleging harassment against several powerful men including a government minister, Bollywood filmmakers, news editors and comedians.