Thiruvananthapuram: Three bishops in Kerala on Monday visited the bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, who is being held in a sub-jail in Pala, Kottayam district, over rape charges.

The three who paid him a visit were bishop Mathew Arackal of Kanjirapally Syro-Malabar diocese, Jose Pulickal, the auxiliary bishop of the same diocese, and Samuel Mar Iranios, an auxiliary bishop of the Malankara Church.

Mulakkal has been accused of raping a nun attached to the Kuravilangad convent in Kottayam district 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The bishop has denied the allegation.

The visit by the three bishops comes a day after the prominent Changanacherry diocese published an encyclical to churches under its control on Sunday, offering indirect support for the jailed bishop.

The encyclical also suggested that some within the Catholic Church were working against the church’s interests.

On social media, the visit of the three bishops was criticised, with one commentator saying that it was a tragedy that bishops now had to visit a colleague in jail, and another stating that bishops would not take such efforts to visit a poor man in jail.

The rape case had taken another twist on Sunday, when it was revealed that a priest, Nicholas Maniparambil, visited the convent to allegedly pressurise the nuns into diluting their case against the bishop.

What was even more controversial was that the priest was accompanied by one Saji Mookkannur, who is accused in the murder of a farmer-leader, P.V. Thomas a few years ago.

The priest denied having knowledge that Mookkannur was a murder-accused.

The Kottayam special branch of police are investigating the matter after a complaint by the nuns at the convent.