A priest sentenced to three years imprisonment for sexually abusing a young boy in his care is yet to be defrocked by the Vatican.
The priest, Donald Bellizzi, can only be deprived of his ecclesiastical status on order of the Vatican-based Order, and not by any Maltese church authorities, including Malta’s Archbishop, the Times of Malta reported. This is because he forms part of a specific religious order, and is not the responsibility of any local diocese.
Bellizzi, a former Burmarrad Franciscan priest, can be defrocked by the Franciscan Order in Rome, which is under the Vatican’s authority. His sentence, which he is currently serving, sparked outrage in Malta, with one local musician even setting up a petition demanding he get a harsher sentence, which has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.
When it comes to Maltese authorities, the Maltese seat of the Franciscan Conventual Friars said it was “saddened” by what happened, noting that restrictions had been placed on him back in 2015 when he was first charged in court.
The case revolves incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2013.
Bellizzi would invite young aspiring priests to retreats at the Franciscan convent in Burmarrad. During one of these retreats, Bellizzi forced a 13-year-old to masturbate him. The former priest was reportedly well-acquainted with the victim’s family, even visiting their house a number of times after the act took place.
Bellizzi, as well as Bellizzi’s sister, even sent text messages to the victim’s mother asking why the family had suddenly stopped speaking to him after the act had occurred.
Cover photo right: Frank Vincentz, left, Times of Malta.