by our correspondent in Malta
A MAN who tore up an Archbishop's letter as the parish priest read it out during Saturday evening Mass has been sentenced to four months in prison for "vilifying the Catholic religion" on the island of Malta, where it enjoys official status.
Leonard Falzon, a 34-year old from the parish of Imqabba, was also found guilty of disturbing a religious ceremony and inciting ten others to do likewise.
Following an incident arising from parish rivalries in June during the feast and accompanying celebrations of Our Lady of the Lily at Imqabba, Archbishop Joseph Mercieca of Malta instructed his Vicar-General to send out a letter castigating those involved in the fight, and demanding that no similar clashes should take place in the future.
see leading article,
page four When the parish priest at lmqabba read out the letter to his congregation at Saturday evening Mass, Mr Falzon lept from his pew, raced up the aisle, snatched the letter from the priest, and tore it up on the alter.
Counsel for Mr Falzon said his action was not directed at the Church, but at the particular point made by the Archbishop. The Church at Imqabba was closed for several weeks while tempers cooled after the incident.