The sister of the Valletta parish priest accused of robbing his own church has criticised Archbishop Charles Scicluna for immediately suspending her brother from his priestly functions.
“I know he was following procedure but he should have remembered that the parish priest is a human being and has a family too,” Fr Deo Debono’s sister wrote in a public Facebook post. “He could have informed him in advance so as to ensure we aren’t hit with double the shock in such a short span of time.”
She also accused the media of orchestrating a character assassination campaign against her brother and criticised people for passing nasty comments about him.
“We are all stunned and speechless, we were raised well and our mother always taught us how to be good,” she said. “I have faith the truth will emerge. I don’t expect it to be easy but we will keep hoping in God.”
Fr. Debono, the parish priest of St Augustine’s Church, Valletta, was arrested this week over the alleged robbery of sacred works of art worth some €80,000 from his own church.
He had reportedly stolen the art over many months and sold them for well below their actual value. He has also reportedly admitted his involvement in the theft to the police and is set to be prosecuted on Monday.
The holy art, which was located in the Augustinian Convent in Valletta, was allegedly replaced with fakes after being stolen, so as to keep the robbery hidden as long as possible.
No one noticed the stolen art until archivist Alex Cauchi noticed fake items hanging in the convent back in January, items that were not part of the Precious Objects inventory found within the convent.
Police officers from the Cultural Property division realised it was Father Deo Debono after an incense burner and some other items that were stolen from the Santa Caterina Nun Monastery were found with an antique dealer.
As soon as the news emerged, the Archbishop removed Fr Debono from his role as parish priest and banned him from celebrating mass in public pending the outcome of the case.