Pope Francis has accepted the Conventual Franciscans Order’s request to dismiss Donald Bellizzi, the Maltese priest convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, iNews Malta reported.
Last November, Bellizzi, a former Burmarrad Franciscan, was sentenced to three years in prison after forcing a minor to masturbate him.
Bellizzi’s offences first began in 2010, when he would invite youths interested in becoming priests on retreats to the Franciscan convent in Burmarrad. Investigations into the case were kicked off after the Curia received reports of the abuse.
Bellizzi was well-acquainted with the victim’s family and visited his house a number of times after the abuse took place.
Bellizzi could only be deprived of his ecclesiastical status on order of Rome’s Conventual Franciscans Order, and not by any Maltese church authorities, including Malta’s Archbishop.
This is because he formed part of a specific religious order and was thus not the responsibility of any local diocese.