Nuns protest in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala, India. Picture: REUTERS/AP

A nun has accused a bishop of repeated rape, galvanising week-long street protests by other nuns and supporters in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
The nun, who is in her forties, accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, 53, of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. 

Bishop Mulakkal had stepped down from his position after the police summoned him for questioning, dpa reported yesterday. He has denied wrongdoing and said earlier that he would accept the death penalty if the rape accusation is proven.

The Missionaries of Jesus, a Catholic organisation he heads, has hit back, accusing the protesting nuns of whipping up a “conspiracy”.
The nuns’ protests coincide with Pope Francis’s acknowledgment this week of failings in addressing sex abuse scandals, as he tries to scrub the image of the Catholic Church - notably in the US, where sexual misconduct cases have rocked the Church.

On Tuesday, the nun who ignited the street protests released a seven-page letter to the Vatican demanding action against the bishop, who allegedly raped her in his room at a convent in the town of Kuravilangad.

“I feel this kind of silence on the part of the church authorities and protection of those who commit the crime may create a situation where the church loses its credibility before society,” she wrote, according to Hindustan Times.

The nuns accused clergy of a coverup. They have been protesting publicly for a week - joined by activists, writers, politicians and a man on an indefinite hunger strike.

The nuns said they started their public campaign against the bishop because authorities had failed to take action against him. The alleged victim first filed a 114-page police complaint on June 28. She also accused the bishop of sending her inappropriate text messages and obscene photos.
Police said their investigation in the case has been delayed because of floods in Kerala. 

On Friday, in an attempt to prove the bishop’s innocence, members of the Indian clergy revealed the nun’s name and photograph to the media - breaking a law that prevents rape victims from being publicly identified.
India is home to 27 million Christians according to the most recent census in 2011. The Washington Post dpa ANA