Updated | St Augustine feast celebrations cancelled after theft allegations against parish priest

Parish priest Fr Deo Debono was removed from his role by the archbishop and the Augustinian Order’s provincial

Fr Deo Debono celebrated his last public mass at the parish on Wednesday (File photo)
Fr Deo Debono celebrated his last public mass at the parish on Wednesday (File photo)

Updated at 11.25am with Augustinian Order's statement

Parishioners of the St Augustine church in Valletta will not celebrate the feast this weekend after all external activities were cancelled yesterday.

The decision to cancel the feast was taken after news emerged that parish priest Fr Deo Debono was questioned at length by the police over the theft of artworks and silverware from his own convent.

On Wednesday evening, Debono was removed from parish priest and barred from celebrating mass in public by Archbishop Charles Scicluna pending the outcome of the case.

READ ALSO: Police question Augustinian parish priest over theft of artworks, silverware

The decision to remove Debono was taken in conjunction with Fr Leslie Gatt, the provincial of the Augustinian Order in Malta.

A scheduled band march that had to happen yesterday did not take place and several band clubs that were invited to participate in the feast over the weekend announced that activities were cancelled.

Police investigations honed in on Debono after the authorities were alerted to the presence of a stolen silver thurible at an antique shop.

The incense holder was reported stolen from a cloister used by the Augustinian nuns in Valletta. 

Sources close to the investigation said it was the shop owner who led the police to Debono.

Further investigations uncovered more stolen items, including “priceless” paintings that were found in a house known to Debono. The paintings were removed from the Augustinian convent.

Liturgical celebrations to continue

In a statement released on Thursday morning, the Augustinian Order confirmed that all external celebrations in Valletta were cancelled but the liturgical functions would proceed as planned.

The Order asked people to allow the police investigations and court proceedings take their course.

The statement signed off by Provincial Fr Leslie Gatt, pledged the Augustinian Order's support to the Valletta community, "especially those who help in the parish and the organisation of the feast".

The liturgical celebrations will continue as follows:

Today and Friday Mass will be celebrated at 6.30pm, while the solemn Mass on Saturday will be held at 6.30pm. Mass on Sunday will be celebrated at the usual times at 7am, 9.30am, 10.45am and 7.15pm.