Judgment day for priests in sex abuse case
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Judgment day for priests in sex abuse case

Alleged victims told case ‘founded’

One of the men who is claiming abuse when he was young.

One of the men who is claiming abuse when he was young.

Two priests accused of sexually abusing minors in their care about 20 years ago will know their fate tomorrow when judgment is expected to be handed down following an eight-year-long court case.

The accused originally stood charged together with a third, who passed away last January, aged 63.

The alleged victims, who were then aged between 13 and 16, were resident at St Joseph’s Home in Sta Venera in the late 1980s when the alleged abuse took place.

The case only came to public attention in September 2003 when one of the victims, Lawrence Grech, gave interviews and claimed he had been sexually abused at the home run by the Missionary Society of St Paul. The following month, police investigations led to the three priests being accused of sex abuse of minors. The court had banned the publication of the priests’ names and the case was heard behind closed doors. At the same time, the Church Response Team initiated an investigation.

In April 2010, ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s Malta visit, Mr Grech and other alleged victims publicly asked the head of the Catholic Church to apologise for the suffering they endured as children.

Under the gaze of the world’s media, the victims were given a private audience with the Pope in Malta. The Vatican promised it would look into their case following criticism of the Response Team, which had not yet concluded its investigation seven years on.

Subsequently, the alleged victims held a private meeting with Archbishop Paul Cremona and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, in June 2010, Archbishop Cremona apologised for the delay in the Church investigation. The Vatican’s Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mgr Charles Scicluna, held meetings in Malta with some of the alleged victims. He compiled their testimony and passed on the details to the Response Team.

Last October, the alleged victims received a letter informing them that their cases were “founded” and the matter would be referred to the Vatican. Then, in January this year, the Vatican instructed the Maltese Church to set up a tribunal to conduct the judicial process into the abuse allegations

In April, Mr Grech – who became the spokesman for the alleged victims – accused the Church of delaying tactics as regards its own tribunal, pending the outcome of the criminal court case.

However, in May, a member of the tribunal hearing the case against the priests met the victims to formalise evidence they gave to the Vatican’s chief sex abuse prosecutor last summer.

Magistrate Saviour Demicoli is expected to hand down the judgment at 9 a.m.

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