Godwin Scerri was found guilty of abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has been dismissed from the clerical state.

This is the most serious penalty leveled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He remains, however, a member of the Missionary Society of St Paul.

Mr Scerri was recently found guilty by the Maltese courts of abusing boys in his care and was jailed five years. He has filed an appeal. The Attorney General is also appealing the magistrate's decision to acquit Mr Scerri of rape.

He is also wanted by the Ontario provincial police in Canada. Mr Scerri avoided prosecution there two decades ago when he fled to Malta.

When a priest is dismissed from the clerical state, or defrocked, he is automatically relieved of his offices and obligations and barred from celebrating the sacraments.