Rome, Italy, Aug 7, 2007 / 10:04 am America/Denver (CNA).
Popular Italian priest Fr. Pierino Gelmini, 82, said this week he forgives the drug addicts who were expelled from his institution and accused him of “sexual abuse” as a way to take revenge and demand money from him.
Fr. Gelmini, founder of the “Incontro” community, which has been a successful drug-rehabilitation center, was recently investigated for sexual abuse after accusations were made against him for the first time in his more than fifty years of priestly service.
He cooperated fully with investigators and revealed that he had been receiving repeated phone calls demanding money “in exchange for having the charges dropped.” Fr. Gelmini demonstrated to officials that the accusations were coming from a group of young people who had been receiving treatment at his community but were expelled for repeatedly stealing.
“When they left,” the priest said, “they told me: ‘We’ll make you pay for this.’ But I have forgiven them because they have suffered much in life.” He said he was saddened that the news of the investigation was made public because, though the reports have been retracted he explained, “I have been executed by the media.”
The “Incontro” community has 287 centers in various countries, and according to Dr. Alessandro Meluzzi, a close friend of Fr. Gelmini, “The young people who live there are the main victims of this scandal, as their rehabilitation has been jeopardized.”