The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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New Curia Response Team to be headed by experienced FA safeguarding manager

Sunday, 30 November 2014, 08:59 Last update: about 11 years ago

Scicluna issues Church apology, announces quicker system to investigate abuse claims

Andrew Azzopardi, who currently heads the English Football Association's Safeguarding Team, is touted to head the Curia's revamped Response Team, The Malta Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The Curia announced yesterday new procedures for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and said investigations will be concluded in a shorter timeframe. It also announced the appointment of a Safeguarding Commission, which will be staffed by professionals.

The Curia said the members of the commission will be announced by the end of January but this paper is reliably informed that Mgr Charles Scicluna has asked Mr Azzopardi to lead it and the former is expected to accept the offer.

When contacted by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Mr Azzopardi said he could not confirm or deny that he will take up the post or if he has been offered it.

Mr Azzopardi specialises in safeguarding child development and sport. He manages the FA's team responsible for dealing with the concerns of safeguarding in football. Mr Azzopardi has 15 years' experience of working with children as a professional or volunteer. He previously worked with the NSPCC, where he completed risk assessments and offered therapy in child abuse cases, and in frontline child protection teams in various local authorities in London, and has worked with asylum-seeking minors in Malta.

He is a graduate in social work from the University of Malta and holds a post-graduate degree in International Politics and Human Rights from City University London. He is also a qualified FA football coach.

In an interview by former England footballer Graeme Le Saux for FA TV, Mr Azzopardi said his team specifically investigates allegations of abuse against people who are in positions of trust, such as coaches, referees, and medical staff.


Quicker investigations

The announcement regarding the revamp of the Response Team comes in the wake of criticism by former Archbishop Paul Cremona and Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna, who has temporarily assumed the leadership of the Church, on the length of time taken by the team to investigate claims of abuse against Dominican priest Charles Fenech. The priest is being charged with sex abuse in a case going back to 2006 and it was recently revealed that the Response Team has still not concluded its eight-year investigation. The team had already come under fire when allegations of sexual abuse of boys at St Joseph's Home, which eventually led to the prosecution and defrocking of two priests, also took eight years to conclude.

Mgr Scicluna, however, has said that the revamping process was launched four years ago, well before the claims against Fr Fenech were made public.

The Curia said yesterday that the new procedures will apply to cases of alleged abuse on children and non-consenting adults by members of the clergy, the laity and members of organisations related to the church but the procedures also cover "inappropriate" relationships between members of the clergy and members of their congregation.

Educating and preventing abuse

The emphasis of the new structure will be on education and the prevention of abuse and investigating it in a short time if it occurs. The revision of the procedures was carried out at the request of the Maltese Bishops and religious superiors. "These new procedures strengthen the Church's resolve to offer psychological and spiritual help to victims of sexual abuse, whether they are minors or adults."

The new structure will allow investigators to gather all information related to an abuse case in the shortest possible time. They will establish the facts and determine whether abuse has taken place.  


Mgr. Scicluna asks for forgiveness, cooperation

In the meantime, in a pastoral letter issued yesterday, Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna called on the public to cooperate with the church. People should not only report abuse but should also speak out on dangerous situations.

Mgr Scicluna said the church shares the heartache of people on cases of abuse.

"Several people have expressed their heartache when they see signs of frailty in priests. Their heartache is also the heartache of the Church. They are able to acknowledge that we priests are people made up of flesh and blood who, at times, falter in the course of our pilgrimage. Our sins are considered to be grave when they are to the detriment of others. Our sins cause great suffering: they are a humiliation to us all and they confound many of you. I wish to hearten you and pass on a word of encouragement to everyone - not just to my brothers in the priesthood, but to you all, dear Christians, people of God.

I need the cooperation of each and every one of you in order that abuse may be reported and stopped, and in order that any dangerous situations may be detected and averted. In all humility, I beg forgiveness for all those things that could have wounded some of our brothers and sisters, and I commit myself to do my part in order that, together with the other Bishops and Religious Superiors, we may uphold our duty to safeguard our flock to the best of our abilities, and as far as we are able to."

The new procedures can be seen at






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