EUROPE/RUSSIA - A statue of Mother Teresa has been inaugurated in Moscow, but her sisters are homeless

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - On 24 September, a statue dedicated to the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was inaugurated in Moscow, during the celebrations for the centenary of the consecration of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Moscow, the largest Catholic church in Russia . In addition to the parishioners, the event collected a number of guests from different parts of Russia and abroad, who gathered around Cardinal Jozef Tomko, special Envoy of Pope Benedict XVI. According to information sent to Fides by the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, the joy of the occasion was overshadowed by the deep sadness at the fact that one of the houses of the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Moscow was demolished and a second is still under threat of demolition by the authorities of the city because of the missing construction permits. Since 1990 the two buildings were used as a service center for the homeless and disabled. For 20 years the sisters gave a meal to more than 150 homeless every day, offered them the opportunity to have a shower, stay in a safe and warm place for a couple of hours. Three years ago the local authorities had resorted to court to force the Missionaries of Charity to demolish one of the buildings and to remove the last floor of the other. Moscow has thus become the first city to launch a lawsuit against the sisters of Mother Teresa.
Local Catholic officials, with the generous help of the Russian Orthodox Church, community and individual organizations, tried to resolve the conflict, but without success. "The demolished building had been built with donations from people all over the world, and its destruction is a sign of blindness in the face of human suffering and contempt for those who help the poorest", said the Missionaries of Charity in a statement issued by the Archdiocese. Unlike all other countries, where the Missionaries of Charity receive free government buildings, Moscow authorities have so far shown no interest in helping the sisters to find a new home, said a representative of the Missionaries of Charity.
"I am convinced that the sisters have done a useful job, also necessary for the city. Their friendly service contributes much to the social and spiritual life of Moscow. It was necessary to try and find a different legal decision that could save this building", said His Exc. Mgr. Paolo Pezzi, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Apostolic Nuncio, in his speech during the inaugural ceremony of the statue hopes that the love for thy neighbor on behalf of the Missionaries of Charity, "their dedication and selfless ministry may find the residents’ and Moscow authorities appreciation" in order to get a new building where they can carry out their work among the most disadvantaged. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 27/09/2011)