A Maltese Church-run Ethiopian orphanage, from where several people have adopted children, has decided to stop adoptions by single people.

Archbishop Paul Cremona expressed his opinion ... that it would be preferable for children to be adopted by married couples

“The country’s (Ethiopia) laws do not refuse adoptions by Maltese single parents. However, the contact through which Maltese are adopting in Ethiopia is currently accepting couples only,” Appoġġ Agency said.

The issue was raised by columnist Alison Bezzina in a timesofmalta.com blog. Ms Bezzina alluded to the fact that the change in policy came from the Maltese Church and may have been aimed at stopping gay people from adopting children from the orphanage.

When contacted, a Curia spokesman denied that the Church had issued “formal instructions” to the orphanage to stop single parent adoptions.

However, he said, a few month ago Archbishop Paul Cremona “expressed his opinion with a religious person who is involved in an orphanage in Ethiopia, that it would be preferable for children to be adopted by married couples”.

The spokesman did not address the question specifically asking whether this had anything to do with gay people adopting, while questions sent to the orphanage remained unanswered.

Over the past few years several single people, some of whom are gay, have adopted children from the Kidane Mehret orphanage in Ethiopia.

Figures released earlier this month showed that 27 children were adopted from Ethiopia between 2008 and 2011.

Figures for how many singles adopted children from there and elsewhere in the past years could not be obtained before going to print. However, Justice Minister Chris Said recently said that Appoġġ had pending adoption requests from 34 couples and five individuals.

He pointed out that overseas adoptions were on the increase, with the most popular source countries being Russia, Ethiopia and Cambodia.

Family lawyer Ann Marie Mangion argued that if the law of Ethiopia allows single people to adopt children then a person being refused adoption because they are single has the right to contest the decision at the country’s courts.

Maltese law allows single people to adopt. It is known that gay couples can adopt children if one of them applies for adoption.

According to Ms Bezzina’s blog, the Ethiopian orphanage’s new policy might have something to do with this.

“And then last week, during a homily at Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech preached that ‘adoption was an exemplary generous act.’ He also appealed to society to continue showing this hospitality, giving people considering abortion another option... Of course, he failed to mention that single parents, especially ‘the’ gays, need not apply,” Ms Bezzina wrote.

Oversees adoption is a vital lifeline for people wanting to adopt since there are few Maltese children who are put up for adoption. In fact, of the 175 children adopted since 2008, only 20 were Maltese born.

People who would like to adopt a child, be it locally or abroad, have to go through Appoġġ agency. They can currently adopt from Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Colombia, Ethiopia and Russia.

In the case of foreign adoptions the child’s country of origin may or may not approve applications by single prospective parents. The agency has to abide by the law of the country, Appoġġ said.

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