Tuesday 23 October 2018 2:33 AM UTC
PUNJAB Oct 23: A Catholic priest who had given evidence in a sexual assault case where a bishop has been accused of raping a nun, has been found dead in northern India.
Kuriakose Kattuthara had given evidence against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was recently released on bail.
Father Kattuthara was found dead in a church in the northern state of Punjab earlier today, and police are investigating his death.
The death comes as India’s Christian community is reeling from a string of cases – including the arrests of five priests in August on allegations of sexual assault.
‘There were no blood marks on his body, and we are investigating the cause of death,’ said Achhru Ram, a senior Punjab state police official in the Dasuya region.
Mulakkal, bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar in Punjab, was arrested in the southern state of Kerala last month on charges of raping the nun.
The Kerala nun had accused him of raping her repeatedly over a period of two years. Just before his arrest, the Vatican had accepted a request from the bishop to be temporarily relieved of his pastoral duties.
He is now out on bail.
Neither Mulakkal nor his lawyers have made any public comment since his arrest though he has denied the charges in media interviews in the past.
He did not immediately respond to email requests seeking comment on Monday.
The diocese of Jalandhar said in a statement on its web site that Mulakkal had expressed sadness over ‘the sudden demise’ of Kattuthara.
Kerala police had said earlier that Kattuthara was a prosecution witness who had given them a statement.
Outside India, the Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia, Germany and other countries.
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