The former Archpriest of Xagħra, Gozo, Mgr Eucharist Sultana, was investigated by the police over allegations of having sexually abused a teenage altar boy but no criminal action had been taken as the case was time-barred, a police spokesman has told Times of Malta.
Sultana was investigated in 2018 at the same time that he was stopped from carrying out any priestly duties, including saying mass.
Earlier this week he was one of the witnesses summoned by the police in the case against two other priests who were arraigned last week and accused of abusing an altar boy.
He told the court that he had been at the seminary with the other priests but could not remember the victim or whether he had been an altar boy at the time that he was archpriest.
Questioned about Mgr Sultana, a police spokesperson said: "Kindly note that The Malta Police Force was informed about the allegations in 2018 by the Church Safeguarding Commission.
"Investigations started immediately by the Vice Squad. However, criminal action could not be taken regarding this alleged incident since it was already time-barred in 2018," he added.
The priest, who served as archpriest of Xaghra between 1973 and 2004, was investigated after the alleged victim reported the abuse to the Church's Safeguarding Commission.
A commission spokesman told Times of Malta that it had investigated the allegations and found them to be "credible" so it had referred them to the police for a criminal investigation.
"The Safeguarding Commission concluded that the allegations against Fr Eucharist Sultana were deemed credible. The case was referred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by the then Bishop of Gozo in order to start a canonical penal process.
"Since then, his public ministry remained restricted which means that he could not celebrate Mass or administer any of the Sacraments in public or have any contact whatsoever with minors," the spokesman said.
When a criminal case becomes time-barred it means that no action can be taken in a court of law.
Sources said that the priest had allegedly sexually abused the boy for four years in return for gifts. The alleged abuse stopped when the boy was 17.
The case bears striking similarities with the case presently being heard by the Gozo court in which two Xaghra priests - Joseph Sultana, 84 and Joseph Cini, 71 - stand accused of having sexually abused another altar boy between 2003 and 2005. Cini is further charged with having raped the boy too.
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