More than a thousand Catholics joined a rally on Feb. 5, demanding the reinstatement of a bishop in the southern Indian state of Karnataka who is facing allegations of sexual abuse and financial mismanagement.
The Vatican appointed Retired Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore the apostolic administrator of Mysore Diocese last month, after announcing that Bishop Kannikadass A William of Mysore has proceeded on leave due to health reasons.
"We demand that our Bishop William be immediately reinstated,” said Mathew Suresh, convenor of Mysore Diocesan Laity Voice, which organized the rally.
Suresh, former public relations officer of the diocese, told UCA News that a memorandum was submitted to Archbishop Moras after the rally.
“Filthy messages by some diocesan priests regarding our bishop are being circulated on social media, alleging that the bishop was kicked out of the diocese as he has five mistresses and many illegitimate children,” Suresh said.
The protest – named peace and prayer rally – covered some three kilometers through a public road from St Joseph’s Cathedral to culminate at the Bishop’s House at Bannimantap.
Suresh claimed that about 5,000 Catholics, including 70 priests and 100 nuns from four districts covered by the diocese joined the rally.
But critics like retired Justice Michael F. Saldanha who campaigned for Bishop Willam's dismissal said the rally was a "pressure tactic.”
Saldanha said Bishop William funded the rally and is desperate to come back to the office.
Mysore diocesan Father Gnana Prakash said the rally was aimed at "misleading the public.”
Father Prakash was among 38 diocesan priests who complained to Pope Francis in 2019, seeking the removal of Bishop William.
"Let Bishop William prove his innocence and if he does so, then we are ready to accept him,” Father Prakash said.
He said many Hindu and Muslim teachers in 158 diocesan schools were pressured to attend the rally.
Archbishop Moras said the memorandum given to him was to be handed over to the Vatican representative in India.
"It was a sealed envelope. I do not know what it contained," Archbishop Moras told UCA News on Feb.6