April 25, 2019
By Claire Giangravè
Despite efforts by the local diocese to distance itself from a lay Catholic association in Sicily whose leader is charged with sexually abusing underage girls, last week the defense lawyer called the bishop to testify in court in May.
By calling local Bishop Antonino Raspanti to testify about “the behavior of the church of Acireale” toward the Catholic Culture and Environment Association (ACCA), defense lawyer Mario Brancato hopes to rehabilitate the reputation of the lay group, he told local reporters April 18.
The group’s lay leader, Piero Alfio Capuana, 75, was arrested in August 2017 for allegedly sexually abusing seven girls who were minors at the time of the incidents. ACCA was founded in 1974 by a well-known Sicilian priest, Father Stefano Cavalli, who considered himself a “spiritual son” of the famed mystic Capuchin friar Padre Pio.
“At the death of Father Cavalli, a founder of the community along with Capuana, the archbishop and other priests were present, and they praised the figure of Father Cavalli, who was also a favorite disciple of Padre Pio with whom he communicated constantly,” Brancato said.
The Diocese of Acireale released a statement shortly after Capuana’s arrest saying that because the group is a “civil association” it had no official ties to the Catholic Church and therefore the diocese was not called to exercise any type of oversight, despite the fact that the group met in a Catholic parish and advertised its activities in the official diocesan paper.
Members of the group believed Capuana to be the reincarnation of the Archangel Michael and that he spoke to the Virgin Mary in his “locutions.”
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