Moldovan Catholic Church supporting Ukrainian refugees
By Lisa Zengarini
As the border crossing to Poland becomes overwhelmed by the humanitarian crisis sparked by the war waged by Russian President Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, the influx of refugees continues to grow by the hour also in other bordering countries.
Among them, the small Republic of Moldova, the poorest nation in Europe, home to a population of some 2.5 million people. The Republic of Moldova is among the countries receiving the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, alongside Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
Ukrainian refugees in Moldova
According to the Moldovan authorities, more than 120,000 Ukrainians have already crossed the border into Moldova, most of them in transit to neighbouring Romania, before leaving for other destinations.
As reported by Vatican News reporter Jean Charles Putzolu, now in Moldova, lines of cars with the Ukrainian numberplates are heading towards the Romanian border. The great majority are women and children, as men have been left behind to defend their country.
In Moldova, the Catholic Church is on the frontline of humanitarian relief efforts in collaboration with State authorities, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and many volunteers from all walks of life.
Mobilization of solidarity
Since the outbreak of the crisis, Catholic institutions and charities, religious communities, and lay organizations have responded immediately and generously to the invitation of Bishop Anton Cosa of Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, to get involved in giving shelter and assistance to the Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war.
These include, among others, Caritas Moldova, the Regina Pacis Foundation, the Don Bosco Foundation, and Fides.
The number of people presently housed by the Catholic Church in Chisinau is around 390. In addition to this, a network of families willing to host refugees has been created. Catholic soup kitchens already operating in the country are distributing hot meals in their own facilities and in other reception facilities, or wherever they are needed.
Also, accompaniment services are provided on arrival in Moldova and for people departing for their final destinations; psychological and health assistance is offered and a communication network has been activated to allow refugees to get in contact with their family members still in Ukraine, or with relatives they have in other countries.
Special care for minors
Particular attention is paid to minors, the most vulnerable in the crisis, who are offered recreational activities so to alleviate psychological distress.
Furthermore, Church organizations are making sure that refugees, especially women with their children, get correct information so they don’t get trapped in human trafficking and exploitation by criminal networks.
Relief efforts to continue as long as needed
The Vicar General of Chisinau, Italian-born Msgr. Cesare Lodeserto, says the Moldovan Catholic Church will continue to help as long as needed. The diocese has thanked Catholics and all Moldovan citizens for their generous solidarity in these dramatic circumstances.
For his part, Bishop Cosa expressed his full support to Pope Francis’s reiterated appeals for an immediate end of the war, and has called upon the local Catholic community to continue praying for peace in Ukraine.