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Catholic priest in Malta accused of sexually abusing boys

A chaplain has been arraigned on charges that he sexually abused three teenage boys. The news comes as the Catholic Church attempts to deal with the growing number of sexual abuse cases around the world.

Malta Valletta

More than 90 percent of Maltese inhabitants are Catholic, according to the CIA World Factbook

A Catholic priest in the largely Catholic country was officially accused on Wednesday of sexually abusing three teenage boys between 2010 and 2013.

The 44-year-old, Donald Bellizzi, the current chaplain of the airport chapel, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court rejected his lawyer's request for bail.

Bellizzi is accused of sexually abusing three boys who attended a group encouraging them to join the priesthood. The boys, who were minors at the time, are now between the ages of 18 and 19 years old, German news agency dpa reported.

The Maltese Church Safegaurding Commission confirmed the case in an online statement, saying they immediately passed the complaint on to police. In the past, the Catholic Chuch had sought to deal with such issues internally without law enforcement.

The accusation comes as the issue of sexual abuse grows more and more pressing for the Catholic Church. Last month, Pope Francis

met with victims of sexual abuse

during his tour of the United States.

"For the sexual abuse of children, these cannot be maintained in secret, and I commit to a careful oversight to insure that youth are protected and all responsible will be held accountable," he said during a speech in Philadelphia.

blc/msh (dpa)

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