The Malta Independent 22 September 2017, Friday

Clerical sex abuse victims to seek relocation of fundraising marathon

Neil Camilleri Monday, 17 July 2017, 13:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

The victims of sexual abuse carried out by priests at St Joseph Home in Santa Venera decades ago will seek legal help to stop an annual fundraising marathon from being held at the premises.

Speaking to The Malta Independent yesterday, one of the victims, Lawrence Grech, said that seeing the marathon on TV brought back horrible memories from the days when he and other young boys were abused.  “We are not against raising funds for good causes but you have to understand that while this is a positive and happy event for many people, it brings so many bad memories for us.”

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He added that the internal courtyard where the event is held is, for the victims, a “place of punishment.”

“It is where one of the fathers used to make us sweep the floor for hours under the sun.”

Grech added: “This place was a brothel where we were abused. Seeing this marathon on TV is like a stab to the heart, because this is the same place where those horrible things happened.”

Grech said he was even hurt by the name of the marathon, Ohloq Tbissima, which means ‘bring a smile.’

He confirmed that the victims are speaking to their lawyers in a bid to get the courts to stop the event from being held at St Joseph Home as from next year. Grech made it clear that he was not against holding the marathon elsewhere.

The alleged abuses of orphan boys at St Joseph Home, which is run by the Missionary Society of St Paul, took place in the 1980s.

In 2012 two MSSP members, Godwin Scerri and Charles Pulis, had been jailed five and six years respectively over the abuse cases. They were found guilty – a verdict which was confirmed on appeal – of sex abuse on 11 underage victims entrusted unto their care. Another priest who was facing criminal charges, Joseph Bonett, died during the proceedings. A fourth priest, Conrad Sciberras, was cleared by the Vatican for lack of corroborative evidence.

The victims had filed a case for compensation, which is ongoing. During that case they had requested the recusal of Judge Joseph R Micallef, arguing that as president of the Catholic radio station Raju Maria, his impartiality was put into question.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna testified in the proceedings earlier this month but journalists were asked to leave the courtroom as he took the witness stand.

The Missionary Society of St Paul runs a number of missions in foreign countries, including Peru, Pakistan and the Philippines. Ohloq Tbissima is an annual marathon to raise funds for the missions but also for the running of St Joseph Home. It is opened by the President and the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader traditionally attend and help pack food parcels for the missions.

PM Joseph Muscat and PN Leader Simon Busuttil visited the marathon on Saturday. By yesterday afternoon the marathon had raised over €100,000 for the missions. 

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