The force of the Gospel in the family

Survey on married couples reveals alarming figures. The comment of Catholic Father Kavalenov. "Break established patterns!"

Only a quarter, and precisely 26% of Bulgarians aged 18-35, with a stable partner, has children, while 56% declare that at the moment they don’t want any. These are the outcomes of a survey titled “contemporary couples”, dedicated to the family and to the priorities of married couples in Bulgaria, conducted by the survey and marketing agency “Nova”. Figures show that in general, having a family is not a priority for young people. For a third of couples with children, and for a third of those who don’t have any, professional career comes first, followed by the creation of a family, but 54% of young couples without children believe that marriage “is an obstacle to a successful career”. Iva Mihailova, for SIR Europe, asked the opinion of Strahil Kavalenov, Catholic parish priest in the St. Mary of the Rosary church of Veliko Tarnovo. Father Kavalenov, what do the results of the survey show? “Figures confirm negative trends in Europe, which in Bulgaria are felt even more strongly because of the absence of moral and Christian values caused by Communist rule. Materialism and consumerism foment these trends through the media, whereby marriage and having children as portrayed as unbearable burdens. For this reason, the great majority of young Bulgarians choose coexistence and postpone the time of marriage to complete their studies and find a job. The fact that the family is not a priority for young people is reason for concern. But I am sure that these trends won’t last long because the desire of having a family is an integrating aspect of mankind”. Many people view career and family as incompatible. Is this the case in Bulgaria? Which national policies would be needed to this regard? “In post-Communist countries family situations where the husband works and his spouse is a housewife no longer exist since the 1970s. By tradition, Bulgarian women work, but the number of children has decreased compared to the Communist period. To counter this situation the government has adopted measures in support of childbirth. Accordingly, maternity leave lasts two years, in the first year the mothers receive 90% of their gross salary and a minimum wage in the second. Kindergartens in large cities have few places and private kindergartens are very expensive. Part-time jobs could be further developed, along with online work from home and the introduction of taxes according to family income”. The Bulgarian Church dedicated last year to the family. What are the major problems encountered in family pastoral care? “Various conclusions of this survey on couples in Bulgaria in general are also valid for Catholics in the Country. If we exclude young people under 30, the previous generations were not raised according to the Church principles because of the atheist regime. Only few Christian families fully correspond to Church doctrine. Many marriages occur between Bulgarians and foreigners (Catholics) or between Catholics and Orthodox or atheists. In some cases the non-Catholic partner finds it hard to accept Catholic moral norms and this impacts married life and children’s education. There also people who live ‘irregular’ marriage situations but feel the need to draw close to the Church. There are also many young Christian families that are members of lay Catholic movements, which is encouraging”. A pastoral care marked by “the culture of the encounter”, capable of “recognizing the free work of God even beyond traditional patters”. What do these words from the Lineamenta for the next Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod suggest you as a parish priest? “I don’t think that the fundamental truths of marriage have been questioned during the Synod; this was also confirmed by the Pope. Rather, it highlighted the complex situation of the family in contemporary society. The Church is for everyone, not only for good people and for those who fulfil all precepts. That’s why we should acknowledge the problems, trends and approaches, linked to the family. Once this is done, we should find the way to evangelize so-called distant persons. We should break established patters and go towards them, offering the way of salvation in an appropriate and comprehensible way, possibly by accompanying their personal decisions”.

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