News | Sunday, 14 June 2009
Bookmark and Share

Homeless shelter still vacant after Church takeover

An edifice in Blata Bajda that was formerly a YMCA homeless shelter, remains unused and in a derelict state after the building was passed into the hands of the Church back in 2001.
The building was the subject of a three-year dispute between the YMCA and the Archbishop’s curia, as both parties claimed possession of the premises, occupying over 4,000 square metres of land.
Dozens of homeless persons had to be evicted after a Court declared the building belonged to the Archbishop’s Curia.
Eight years down the line, a Curia spokesperson confirmed that the premises is assigned to church organisation Caritas for a ‘family resource centre’ but that plans have not yet been finalised. “One of the major problems is lack of finances,” the spokesperson said, adding that the building “needs to be rebuilt from scratch.”
YMCA chairman Jean-Paul Mifsud said it was “a great pity that after all these years, a building assigned for charitable purposes remains unused – especially when considering that the demand for social aid in Malta keeps growing.”
The Curia did not reply when asked whether more good would have been done had the YMCA been granted the possibility to pursue its project.
Caritas Malta President Fr Victor Grech assured this newspaper that Caritas has “no intention of shelving the project”, and reiterated the Church’s claims that financing was the main stumbling block. “We are revising the original plans because of the costs these entail. We had applied for MEPA permits but by the time these were issued, construction costs shot up.”
The dispute between the Curia and the YMCA erupted after the demise of Fr Carmelo Pace, the general administrator and director of the Welfare Society for the Sick and Aged (WSSA), which had been granted use of the building by the Church in the 1960s.
Two YMCA officials, chairman Jean-Paul Mifsud and Antonio Depasquale, claimed they were appointed successors of the late Fr Pace.
But their claims were rejected by the Curia, which said that shortly before the demise of Fr Pace, church officials had spoken to the WSSA president Anthony Montanaro Gauci to dissolve the WSSA statute and deem its board of governors defunct.
When the dispute was dragged to court, the YMCA argued that Montanaro Gauci was senile when he made this decision, and that Fr Pace was not consulted before the dissolution was made.
Under oath, Church representatives claimed the building was imminently required for a charitable project run by church organisation Caritas.
The court recognised the Church’s legitimate claims in 2001, which consequently led to the eviction of the homeless persons living in the WSSA building.
Shortly after, in a meeting with then social policy minister Lawrence Gonzi, YMCA officials expressed their concern over the Church’s intentions for the premises. They asked Gonzi to intervene so that the building was not sold for commercial interests, threatening to publicise the Church’s intentions.

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.


The ghost of McCarthy


Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email