Ella could have received Holy Communion if established system had been followed

A parish priest's decision not to certify an autistic girl as having received the Holy Communion after she failed to swallow the communion wafer was but one more case of exclusion too many, the Autism Advisory Council has claimed

Ella Agius will now receive the Holy Communion at the hands of Archbishop Charles Scicluna
Ella Agius will now receive the Holy Communion at the hands of Archbishop Charles Scicluna

The controversy and public outcry surrounding the decision by the parish priest of Burmarrad to not certify an autistic girl as having received the First Holy Communion could have been avoided if an established protocol had been followed beforehand.

MaltaToday reported last week that Fr Christian Anthony Borg Ella Agius refused to officially certify Ella Agius as having received Holy Communion after the girl was unable to swallow the communion wafer.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna had to intervene after the news was published, even meeting the Agius family and deciding to personally celebrate Ella’s Holy Communion at her residence next Sunday.

But in a statement issued today, the Autism Advisory Council said that there already systems in place, administered by the Archbishop’s Curia, which offer families and persons with autism the possibility of receiving support in ensuring that catechism and mass, as well as preparation for and receiving First Holy Communion, are made accessible to them.

This system is managed by dedicated volunteers who liaise with parishes and families, and who have also been trained by the Vatican from time to time.

READ ALSO: Archbishop to personally certify autistic child’s Holy Communion

The council said it was informed that, in Ella’s case, attempts were made as early as 2017 in order to ensure that the case in question, together with a number of other cases, could be prepared for in good time.

“However, for one reason or another, the matter only blew up after the First Holy Communion of Ella Agius was proceeded with, without any preparations or measures towards accessibility having been taken, resulting in the girl not having been able to consume the communion wafer due to temporary dysphagia (inability to swallow),” the statement read.

'Inaestimabile Donum', the Vatican document regulating matters concerning Communion – including certain matters relating to adjustments – does not allow for Communion to be certified should certain formal criteria not be met. Such criteria could have been met, had necessary adjustments been agreed on and implemented prior to Ella’s ‘big day’ but, for whatever reason, they were not.

The Council said the whole episode could have easily been avoided – if the protocol had been followed had happened, in fact, in a number of similar cases.

“While Council does not want to, and will not point fingers, this case of exclusion is one more case too many,” the statement said.

The Council said that, while appreciating the Archbishop’s intervention, it would much rather see entities and persons involved seize the day before something similar happens once again, rather than saving the day in a blaze of media flurry afterwards.

More in National