Autistic child denied Holy Communion certificate

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has offered to meet family angered by Burmarrad parish priest’s action

Fr Christian Anthony Borg refused to certify Ella as having received the Holy Communion after she could not swallow the holy wafer
Fr Christian Anthony Borg refused to certify Ella as having received the Holy Communion after she could not swallow the holy wafer

Ella Agius is an autistic child and last June she was to receive her first Holy Communion with other children at the Burmarrad parish church.

But what should have been an important milestone for Ella and her family, has turned out to be a source of frustration that has now also roped in Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Ella’s condition means that at times she is unable to swallow.

On the big day, the child refused to be administered the Eucharist and Burmarrad parish priest, Christian Anthony Borg, felt this was reason enough not to officially certify Ella as having received Holy Communion.

The parish priest’s refusal to issue the Holy Communion certificate has angered Ella’s father, Jean Claude Agius, who vented his disappointment on a Facebook post.

When contacted by MaltaToday, Jean Claude said the parish priest had denied his daughter certification and insisted that he had learned all this through other parents.

“My wife, through other parents, learned that we had to pick up the certificate. I contacted the priest and he said that he wanted to talk to me face to face. He then said that he would not approve the Holy Communion of my girl,” Jean Claude said.

He also showed MaltaToday screenshots of an exchange with Borg. In the messages, the father is repeatedly asking Borg whether his daughter would be awarded a Holy Communion certificate and the priest responded by saying that he could not “certify something that didn’t happen”.

When Jean Claude replied by saying that he would be contacting the Archbishop about the case, the parish priest insisted it would be useless since the order came from the Archbishop himself.

“That is up to you. You will not be getting a different answer, as it is the one he [the Archbishop] instructed me to tell you,” Borg wrote in his message to the father.

However, a spokesperson for Scicluna denied the Archbishop ever gave such an instruction.

“The Archbishop was not informed about this case. His approach in such situations is one of great sensitivity. The Archbishop is available to visit the parents at their family home,” the spokesperson said.

In his reply to MaltaToday’s question, Scicluna’s spokesperson insisted that a disability does not prevent an individual from receiving Holy Communion.

“Many people with a disability receive Holy Communion regularly. These include autistic children who receive Holy Communion after the necessary preparation,” the spokesperson said.

The parish priest has refused to comment and answer any questions on the case, citing privacy issues.

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