Pope Francis has finally dismissed former vicar of St Sebastian Church, Robin Vadakkumchery from Thalassery, Kerala who was convicted of raping a minor girl and impregnating her and sentenced to 20 years of jail a year ago. Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady released a statement on Sunday in which it stated that Pope Francis ordered on December 5 last year that Vadakkumchery be defrocked. Mananthavady diocese shared the order with the convicted priest which he has finally accepted and signed, the statement added.

“From now on, he won’t have any priestly rights and duties and he will no more be addressed as Fr Robin Vadakkumchery. He will be known as Robin Vadakkumchery only,” Fr Kocharakkal said, TOI reported.

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Vadakkumchery was suspended from priestly duties by the Catholic diocese of Mananthavady in 2017 when the case grabbed media attention. “The congregation for the doctrine of faith in Rome began the procedures for dismissal of Robin from the priesthood in June 2019 and based on their report, Pope Francis has dismissed Robin Vadakkumchery from the priesthood and all its rights and duties on December 5,” the statement issued by the Mananthavady diocese said.

The Thalassery POCSO Court awarded 20 years of imprisonment to Vadakkumchery on February 16 last year. While the court convicted Vadakkumchery, it acquitted six other accused – five nuns from the Christu Raj convent and one administrator who were accused of covering up the incident for lack of substantial evidence.

The survivor was a minor who was a student in a school where Vadakkumchery taught when he raped her several times in 2016. As a result of it, she conceived a child who was born at the Christu Raj Hospital, a church-run institution in Thokkilangadi, Kannur. Police said that the child complained of a stomach ache when she was admitted in the hospital and her parents lied to her saying that she was being operated for appendicitis. The case came to limelight when Kannur Child Helpline received an anonymous letter exposing it.

The POCSO court found Vadakkumchery guilty of rape after it found that survivor was a minor at the time she was raped according to her birth certificate. Her child’s DNA report proved that Vadakkumchery was indeed the father leaving no space for doubt. The enormous power used by the church in curtailing the survivor’s voice and in protecting the priest was made apparent by the fact that a Child helpline officer who brought the case to the limelight was also forced to take the blame for the case.

Also read: Kerala Priest Sentenced To 20 Years In Jail For Raping Minor Girl

“From now on, he won’t have any priestly rights and duties and he will no more be addressed as Fr Robin Vadakkumchery. He will be known as Robin Vadakkumchery only,” Fr Kocharakkal said.

“He was under such immense pressure that he was ready to take the blame and owned up to a heinous crime that he had never committed. But soon, he broke down and said that it was Father Robin’s baby, and that has been established beyond doubt with DNA tests,” a Child helpline officer had then told TNM.

The pope also took note of this case, despite conviction after months of Vadakkumchery serving his sentence in Jail. While the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council formulated guideline to protect minors from sexual abuse and assault in the Church and Church-controlled organisations and also mentioned defrocking of the priest if found guilty, the church never defrocked Vadakkumchery until Pope Francis ordered it. The document was drafted as per the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) guidelines on the same issue from October 2015.

Picture credit- Deccan Chronicle

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