In their grandfathers’ hands

The family, children and female migration

“In Moldova we’re living in a society divided between those who dream to be part of the European Union on the one side and Russian nostalgics on the other”, said the bishop of Chisinau, Msgr. Antonio Cosa, in an interview by Jacques Berset, director of the Swiss news agency Apic, in cooperation with SIR Europe. There are 4 million inhabitants in Moldova, 1% are Catholics, 93% are Orthodox and the remaining belong to other religions or to none at all. Church and State. “When I first came to Moldova in 1990 – explained the young bishop of Romanian origins – there was just one parish church for the whole Country”, but the Moldavian Church, that started “from scratch”, developed rapidly. “There are now 17 churches, 33 priests (5 of whom Moldavian) and 45 religious”. The most widespread language in Mass celebration is Polish, followed by Russian and Romanian. Msgr. Cosa referred to “friendly personal relations” with the Orthodox faithful, with whom there is ongoing cooperation at practical level, although ecumenism has not developed as Rome had wished”. State relations are “acceptable”. The government is currently led by “the Alliance for European integration: Liberals and democrats who defend European principles and are on good terms with the Church. The government clearly announced its decision to join Europe and seek a strong ally in the EU”. However, the prelate remarks, “We must also take into account the historical bonds with Russia, which remains a point of reference for the population” in a State where “early elections have been scheduled for next November 28”.Divided between Brussels and Moscow. The “ethnic and linguistic question” sparked off across society. “Even the Romanian language – spoken by the majority of Moldavian population – was renamed ‘Moldavian'”. “There is strong opposition between EU supporters and those who instead are drawn towards Moscow”. The bishop of Chisinau thus delves into the impoverishment of the population that broke out with the fall of the Soviet Union. “When the national currency changed – he explained – people lost their savings”. For this reason at the end of the 1990s migration flows towards Europe began to be seen, first by women and female youth, and later by men. Migrations also brought “the plague of human trafficking and prostitution. People to whom documents were confiscated and who were locked in places from which they couldn’t escape”. A quarter of the population migrated. Approximately “a quarter of Moldavian population resettled abroad, with a depopulation in the countryside”. And since “most migrants are women, their children were entrusted to their grandparents’ foster care in the Country of departure”, the prelate said, and added that “several hundred thousand children are thus raised away from their parents”. It is a situation “which the Catholic Church is too weak to change”. “We receive help from the Church of Lecce (in the Puglia region, Italy, ed.’s note) and from the ‘Regina Pacis’ Foundation in San Foca di Melendugno (in the same region) which since 1997 is engaged in assisting Moldavian migrants in Italy with social integration programs for women victims of sexual exploitation”. Over one thousand “young women were saved, and after they were returned their documents they went back to Moldova”. The prelate expressed his gratitude for the “admirable” cooperation offered by the Italian embassy in Chisinau which “in the course of 2009 issued 25 thousand visas to Moldovan citizens”. “Social poverty” of orphans and poor people. In addressing the theme of poverty – the mean salary in the Country amounts to 182 euro – Msgr. Cosa underlined the phenomenon of “social poverty” that affects orphans and old people. The former, the so-called “social orphans”, are the “children and youth whose mothers left for Italy where they work as domestic helpers or elder caregivers”. “Each domestic helper in Italy – the bishop underlines – is in fact an absent mother in her family in Moldova”. But there’s “another social category that is deeply touched by poverty: that of the elderly, considered the representatives of the past and abandoned to themselves”. For this reason “the Catholic Church in Moldova is very active in these areas”, in addition to the strictly pastoral activities held in 17 parishes across the Country “where priests and religions from different Countries offer their services”. The national Church -concludes Msgr. Cosa – “exerts daily ‘street pastoral care’ marked by availability towards the disadvantaged brackets, whilst providing assistance and social services”.

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