ROME – In yet another example of a Catholic movement beset with allegations of cultism and manipulation, the Maltese Community of Jesus the Savior has been disavowed by the archdiocese and priests are forbidden to hold any association with it.
In a July 12 communique, the Archdiocese of Malta said it “disassociates itself from the Jesus Savior community,” but gave no specific reasons for the decision.
By order of Archbishop Charles Scicluna of the Malta archdiocese, it was stated that “no priest or religious should take part in meetings organized by the Jesus the Savior community and these meetings should not be hosted in a church or in any church property.”
In a message posted to their Facebook page Sunday, the group said they had been informed of the decision and are in communication with the archdiocese about what led to the decision, insisting that “we were not informed or approached” beforehand.
One member of the group who appears to be a leader in the community said in a comment on the Facebook post that the community “has not yet received any letter from the Curia and no contact as to why this letter was issued to the Community of Jesus the Savior. The Community is still awaiting an appointment from the Authorities.”
Described on their Facebook page as a Catholic prayer community operating in Malta, the community is led by a Core Group, its three main branches are an Intercessory Team, various “Cenacles” of priests, religious sisters, children and adolescents, and open community meetings.
The community’s spiritual director is identified on its Facebook page as Father Elias Vella, a known leader in Malta’s charismatic movement and one of the archdiocese’s exorcists.
Members of the Intercession Team meet weekly to conduct intercessory prayer, and each member is required to follow a strict daily prayer routine, and they are required to adhere to community rules, which they insist are based on “the Word of God.”
Community branches are present in different parishes throughout Malta. Their monthly activities include Eucharistic adoration, catechesis, praise and worship, and praying the rosary. They also hold a “Rhema celebration” once a month, consisting of Mass followed by praise and worship.
According to Maltese paper, Malta Today, the leader of the group is Clyde Attard, who during Malta’s 2011 referendum on divorce was part of the non-church group opposing the legalization of divorce, called, Kristu Iva Divorzju Le, meaning, “Christ yes, divorce no.”
In a July 8 Facebook post, a former member of the group, who has spoken about her experience to the TVM Maltese television network, referred to the group as a “cult.”
Attard said she was raised in the community, and that her father was one of its leaders, and as such, “I believed everyone was my family and loved me.”
However, Attard said that several months ago she decided to stop attending community activities after seeing that “it wasn’t for me anymore, and it was taking up my whole life,” and even ruining relationships.
She insisted that she would not have “had the courage to leave” without the support of her boyfriend and his family, who are not members of the community, as well as other close friends who she said “tirelessly tried to get me out of that toxic environment.”
“My own parents told me I would get sick and I would be condemned to go to hell if I left,” she said, adding that she has heard of many other people “who have suffered” from being in the community, and who are “too afraid to speak as they fear (the community) will send curses to them.”
Attard said that after members received news about the archdiocese’s decision to disassociate itself from the community, they blocked her on Facebook.
“I cannot believe this community who say they are following god, can be such cowards and hypocrites, thanks for nothing,” she said, insisting that the group is “controlled” by a woman named Josette and that they “do not understand how bad the situation that they are in is. They need serious help.”
The case of the Jesus the Savior community is the latest in swath of movements and communities in recent years whose members or founders have been accused of sexual, financial or psychological misconduct, including the abuses of power and authority.
Members of the community did not immediately respond to a Crux request for comment.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen