The archdiocese said that the courts determined that the archbishop of Malta’s power over the foundation was limited to appointing an administrator.
“At no point did they cast doubt on Richard Stagno Navarra’s status as a legitimate heir,” it said.
The archdiocese explained that in 2017, Scicluna followed advice to end the costly legal battle and sign an agreement accepting court decisions recognizing the heirs.
The heirs then nominated two candidates to serve as administrator: a cleric and a lawyer, Patrick Valentino.
“The archbishop, who did not possess the authority to present names for nominations of his own, consented to Dr. Valentino’s nomination since he did not want to have a cleric involved in the administration of property belonging to a lay organization,” the archdiocese said.
It added that the Church received a lump sum of 200,000 euros (around $225,000), using the interest to fulfill obligations including the celebration of Masses.
Moviment Graffitti, a left-wing Maltese organization supporting the protesters, disputed the archdiocese’s account of events.
In a statement on its Facebook page on Dec. 15, it said that the archbishop’s decision had “opened the floodgates to eviction threats against Gozitan residents, land speculation and the take-up of precious agricultural and undeveloped land to be replaced by grotesque development projects, ruining Gozo’s landscape and the quality of life of residents in the process.”
Commenting on the decision by Malta’s Land Registration Agency in 2019 to register the land, the archdiocese underlined that the “unexpected development took place two years after a legal settlement.”
It concluded: “The archdiocese makes a heartfelt appeal for equitable solutions to prevail.”
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