Prominent Indian social activist Swami Agnivesh has sought the intervention of Pope Francis to help five nuns who are facing a church backlash after holding a public protest demanding action against a bishop accused of raping a nun.
Agnivesh, who on Jan. 23 released his detailed letter to the Pope, told ucanews.com that the church’s moves against the nuns were “in effect a punishment given to them for speaking the truth.”
The leader of the Arya Samaj Hindu sect was referring to a case involving Missionaries of Jesus nuns in the southern state of Kerala.
Four nuns, all Kerala natives, came from different parts of India to support their former superior, who filed a police complaint in June 2018 accusing Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar of raping her multiple times between 2014 to 2016. In September, the four joined another nuns from the congregation’s Kerala convent and held a two-week street protest that ended on Sept. 22, a day after the bishop was arrested. They have been staying in Kerala ever since.
The congregation’s current superior recently asked the four nuns to return to their respective convents. The nuns alleged it was a tactic to break their unity and weaken the case against the 54-year-old bishop. The other nun, Sister Neena Rose, has been asked to report to the congregation’s headquarters in Jalandhar and meet superior general Regina Kandamthottu on Jan. 26.
Agnivesh, a 79-year-old Hindu scholar known for his stand against India’s governing pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the nuns were being harassed for their stand for justice.
Expressing confidence in Pope Francis’ “robust sense of justice,” he said he wanted the Pope’s intervention to end the harassment.
His letter said it was “indeed shocking that, while the concerned diocese and its religious orders go easy on the alleged rapist, it is targeting those who stood and struggled for justice for the victim.”