The Church has rejected any suggestion of responsibility for Nadur residents who are facing demands to pay tens of thousands to stay in their homes.
The houses are built on land placed in a medieval fund in which the archbishop had decisive control until he gave up most of it in contracts which, legal experts told Lovin Malta, are unreliable in court.
Cosmana Navarra put vast lands under the foundation called Benefit of Sant Antonio delli Navarra in 1675 to raise money for pious deeds.
Questions sent to the archbishop were answered by the archdiocese’s highest official, Michael Pace Ross.
He wrote that “the lands in question were never owned by the Archdiocese of Malta, and it is neither correct nor fair to attribute any result resulting from decisions taken by the beneficiary’s administrators to the Archdiocese.”
Legal experts said the archbishop maintains legal options. Among these are the power to appoint future rectors to administer the foundation and, implicitly, the power to dismiss the rector.
This came out in the Court of Appeal in 2013 (when the archdiocese won a lawsuit against the former rector) which said that the founder wanted the archbishop to appoint a rector whenever the present one either died or was removed for failing ” from observing the conditions imposed by the founder. ”
Archbishop Charles Scicluna appointed the present rector, lawyer Patrick Valentino, four years ago. Valentino then transferred developable lands to companies belonging to the sixth Stagno Navarras that they claimed to be descended from Cosmana, lawyer Carmelo Galea, and a Montebello company, including his partner Rachel Montebello, the magistrate. The transferred lands are worth many millions.
He was also demanding higher rents from farmers on undeveloped agricultural land. And in Nadur, where the foundation has registered land ownership in the city center on which live about four dozen houses, residents are being asked to pay tens of thousands.
All this caused agony and anger among hundreds of residents and farmers.
Land ownership has no effect
On the point made by Pace Ross that the church “never had the land,” this is near the point because of the rules of the foundation created “for all time to come”. Cosmana Navarra, an extremely religious noblewoman, founded the foundation at the age of 75 in 1675 – at that time, her primary concerns were the establishment of the foundation and the completion of St. Paul’s Church. -Victory, which is fully funded and where she is buried.
In the foundation set up to be kept under the patronage of her granddaughter’s heirs, Federico Falzon Navarra, a rector will play an administrative role while the archbishop will have decisive power to give his consent, or veto, any grant of land. foundation through emphyteusis.
The rector nominated by the patrons and appointed by the archbishop was to be an unmarried male descendant of Federico, a priest in the absence of a male descendant, or any descendant of Cosmana in the absence of one of them.
However in 2017 the archdiocese accepted the claims of descent of six Stagno Navarra brothers – hence the patronage – without asking to see any evidence. The archbishop then relinquished the right of veto in land transfers and appointed Valentino as rector even though he is neither descended from Federico or Cosmana nor a priest.
Questions sent to the archbishop as to whether all this could be done without a decree from the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction were not answered.
The Archbishop will testify this week
In an ongoing court case where Valentino is demanding the eviction of a family from their home built on land held by their ancestors for more than a hundred years, Archbishop Michelle Tabone’s legal representative and manager of the property of the archdiocese Raymond Bonnici struggled in the face of some questions.
The two testified after Archbishop Charles Scicluna responded twice to be released from the court summons. He requested that the two be in a better position to answer questions and, separately, also invoked provisions which have no relevance to the question as to whether or not he could be compelled to testify.
Under strong questions from the magistrate, Tabone insisted that she had signed the contracts only as a “representative of the archbishop”, and that she had no mind for any discussion or negotiations during the drafting of the contracts.
For his part, Bonnici said the church was being threatened with further litigation, and did not want to “spend another twenty years in court.”
He also said two nominees were presented for the rector, Valentino and a priest named Jesmond Grech, but he (Bonnici) did not know why the archbishop chose Valentino.
Archbishop Scicluna is now due to testify next week.
Dreadful obligations are not fulfilled
In his response, the archdiocese’s top official Michael Pace Ross also said that “the archdiocese had only the right [under contract of the foundation] to receive an adequate amount to cover the pious obligations ”.
Fundraising for pious deeds is the focal point of the foundation, and the archdiocese raised € 200,000 when it signed the contract in 2017 “so that,” said Pace Ross, “from the accrued interest, the pious obligations are guaranteed. ”
However the foundation’s contract specifies several times that pious deeds are “obligations” of the rector, not of the church.
Lovin Malta can also reveal something else: pious deeds are not being carried out despite Pace Ross describing them as the “obligations” of the archdiocese.
These pious deeds range from mass – every day on the side altar of St. Anthony of the church of Victoria (where Cosmana is buried), every week in St. Paul’s Grotto, twenty-four masses each year in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady of Qala – to finance festivities for St. Anthony. the Abbot, St. Philip the Black, and the Holy Cross, as well as other annual commemorations, including the employment of a sacristan.
In the case of 24 masses a year in the Qala chapel, for example, sources said that I had been to mass for years over thousands of euros and remained unpaid. Then the priest stopped saying mass.
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