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ROME – This week a new pastor was appointed for a small parish in the Archdiocese of Perugia still reeling from the arrest of their former pastor earlier this summer on charges of child pornography and prostitution.

On Thursday, Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia and head of the Italian bishops’ conference, introduced Father Engjell Pitaqi to the parish community of San Feliciano, which he will now call home.

Born in Kosovo, Pitaqi has been in Italy for 20 years and was ordained a priest by Bassetti in 2011. He has spent the bulk of his ministry at the parish of Colombella in northeastern Perugia, where he was held in high regard by his parishioners.

He takes over for Father Vincenzo Esposito, 63, who was arrested in early August following an investigation by the Carabinieri, the Italian military police, of Termini Imerese, which is in Sicily.

Having served at San Feliciano since his appointment in 2013, Esposito was denied his lawyer’s request for house arrest, and remains behind bars at a prison in Spoleto while an investigation is being conducted.

The Archdiocese of Perugia had also opened its own investigation into the incident and, according to Bassetti, will make its decision on whether to suspend or defrock Esposito after its inquiry has concluded.

Esposito is accused of making sexual advances to four minor boys through the video chats on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and with sending money to the boys, who are under 18, in exchange for explicit images and videos of themselves.

A 50-year-old woman, the mother of a 17-year-old victim, was also arrested for allegedly receiving payments from Esposito in exchange for the explicit calls or videos of her son.

Esposito allegedly ask for specific content from the youths and would then send the money through a local tobacco shop near his home in San Feliciano.

Bassetti paid a personal visit to San Feliciano shortly after Esposito’s arrest to comfort and reassure the parish community.

In remarks given during Thursday’s introduction of Pitaqi to his new parish, Bassetti said Pitaqi “is a priest who knows how to be with children, knows how to educate them, understands them, knows how to bring them to the Lord, because the task of a priest is bringing people to the Lord.”

“Father Engjell is capable of doing this and we will entrust him with the coordination of the youth ministry of all the parishes of the (area),” Bassetti said, adding the archdiocese is working to develop small pastoral units composed of several small local parishes, with each unit being coordinated by the pastor of one of the parishes.

However, “I am also very glad that San Feliciano has their priest given what has happened here, and there are many situations to mend,” he said.

Noting that Pitaqi’s task will not be an easy one, Bassetti said he is a priest “with good shoulders,” and noted that while in Colombella, “he worked well with families and especially with young people and has a trait of delicacy toward the children in primary school.”

“Not a day went by that he did not visit them, and this allowed him to establish a good relationship with the parents and families,” Bassetti said, adding, “It costs him to leave Colombella.”

Even for the parishioners at Colombella, it was difficult to say goodbye, Bassetti said, but insisted that “attachment to one’s own parish priest is also a good sign for the community where he will go.”

A friend of Pitaqi’s who attended Thursday’s introduction told parishioners that they had made “a good acquisition … even those who like me are not faithful practitioners get along with him immediately. He is a fantastic guy; you will see him at work.”

In remarks to his new parishioners, Pitaqi described himself as a man “of few words,” saying his homilies “last four minutes,” and no more.

“I thank the cardinal and the auxiliary bishop for the trust they have placed in me, and I believe that I have great need of your advice and a lot to learn from you, (as) I have not arrived yet. I need some of you to tell me, ‘you are wrong here.’ I need each of you to be able to grow and do things together,” he said.

Pitaqi pledged to do everything he can for his new parish family, saying, “I will do everything to be like you and one of you.”

He will officially take over at the parish Sunday, Sept. 26, when a group of young people are scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

An initial meeting for the youth attending catechism classes will be held afterward to develop a plan for ministry after they are confirmed, which Pitaqi said “completely changes everything, because it is no longer the ‘classic’ catechism, but is together in watching a film, eating a pizza, and in doing nice things.”

At the close of the meeting, Bassetti asked the community of San Feliciano to pray for Pitaqi and for all priests, including Esposito, so that “if he is wrong he may repent.”

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen