Getting the Moldovan Church Out of Catacombs

Italian Diocese Has Plan for Ex-Soviet Republic

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RIMINI, Italy, MAY 3, 2001 ( An Italian diocese has launched a plan to foster the rebirth of Catholicism in Moldova, a former Soviet satellite now besieged by crime and corruption.

Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi of Lecce has taken the initiative «to assist the sister Church of Moldova, which emerged from the catacombs a short while ago, in a state of 5 million inhabitants that lacks evangelizers, and must face two challenges: the formation of the laity, and the social reintegration of former prostitutes enslaved in Italy and Europe.»

Bishop Anton Cosa, 39, who heads the Church in Moldova, a republic sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, said in a report that «at present, the Church in Moldavia includes 15 priests, 25 nuns and 15 seminarians.»

«It needs places for meetings, and is unable to help many poor,» he said. «Even Gospels and catechisms are lacking.»

In regard to the social situation, Bishop Cosa said, «We are besieged by crime and corruption.» This explains «illegal emigration and the exploitation of prostitution,» he added. «This is why we ask for help.»

The Italian diocese also hopes to help with the social reintegration in Moldova of young women who were enslaved in Italy by prostitution mafias.

The plan will be supported by the Regina Pacis Foundation of the Archdiocese of Lecce, located on the Adriatic coast, and the daily scene of the arrival of hundreds of illegal immigrants from Albania and other Eastern countries.

«We must help the Eastern girls, their families and children, who often become street children, to regain their smile and joy of living,» said the foundation´s president, Father Cesare Lodeserto.

The foundation will organize specific courses for the formation of the laity. In order to have a clear, on site, definition of the program, Bishop Ruppi is traveling to Ukraine, Romania and Moldova through May 7. He is inaugurating the Regina Pacis Foundation in Moldova.

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