Sunday, July 11, 2010

Archbishop in bridge-building meeting with 'abuse victims'

Sunday, 11th July 2010
Archbishop in bridge-building meeting with 'abuse victims'
Herman Grech
Times of Malta

Pope Benedict meeting Lawrence Grech during his visit to Malta last April.
The men allegedly abused by clergymen were last week invited to the Archbishop's residence for a private meeting in another bridge-building exercise.

The "emotional" gathering took place last Wednesday in Attard as the Curia tries to drive the message home that it is seriously tackling the paedophilia claims against four priests who once served at a St Venera orphanage.

Lawrence Grech, one of the alleged victims, told The Sunday Times after the meeting: "All of us are finally happy about the way our case is being tackled - even though I strongly believe our appeals were only heeded because of media pressure."

The 37-year-old added he had no reason, however, to doubt the integrity of Archbishop Paul Cremona, who presented each of the seven men with the official photographs taken with Pope Benedict XVI during their meeting with him when the Pontiff visited Malta last April.

Joseph Magro, another former resident of St Joseph Home, said the abuse case was not mentioned during last Wednesday's meeting with the Archbishop, though Mgr Cremona at one point did remark that "good was coming out of the bad".

The alleged victims had repeatedly accused the Church and especially its Response Team of doing its utmost to dismiss their claims as mere fabrications.

"Things have changed since Mgr Charles Scicluna, (the Vatican's Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) got involved in the case. There's certainly been a change in attitude from the Maltese Church," Mr Magro said. Still, he is not very hopeful of the outcome of Tuesday's meeting with the Response Team.

"I'm happy I relayed my experiences to Mgr Scicluna but I'm not optimistic or interested in a meeting with a Response Team which has asked me to testify after seven years. But I will go because I have to do my duty."

Thirteen men in total have claimed they were abused during their time in a St Venera orphanage some 20 years ago. They first made their case public in 2003, but the matter is still pending before the court and the Curia's Response Team, which was set up to investigate abuse cases.

Mgr Scicluna is expected to wrap up his inquiry by the end of summer. Should it be established that the priests committed abuse, they could be defrocked. Sources said the court case could also be concluded by the end of the year.

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