Moving scenes as Marius Bodnariu sees sons for first time in three months

The Bodnariu family.

The father whose five children were removed from the family home by Norway's Barnevernet, or child welfare services, has been able to see his sons for the first time in three months.

The children of Ruth and Marius Bodnariu were removed without warning last November in a case that has attracted world-wide attention. It was reported that the couple's religious faith had raised concerns at the children's school and their case was taken up by religious liberty campaigners, though it was later claimed that the issue was that they had spanked them, which is illegal in Norway.

The case also fitted others where the children of immigrant or mixed-ethnicity families had been removed; Marius Bodnariu is from Romania.

In a post on Facebook the family's representative, Pastor Cristian Ionescu, wrote: "Ruth was filled with joy to see how happy the boys were to see Marius. Marius was happy to see the children's joy, but also for Ruth who almost fell into depression last week when the visit was cancelled and delayed.

"Both boys were overjoyed to see 'papa'. They ate hot-dogs (their wish expressed during the last visit with Ruth) and while they ate, Ioan said: 'I love...' Ruth asked 'You like the food?' but he answered 'I love papa!'

"Matei told the parents about a dream he had, a dream in which they were together again. Marius asked him if all of them were together in the dream, to which Matei answered: 'Yes, they were together, Eliana, Naomi, Ioan, Ezechiel, mama, papa and himself, Matei!'"

Ionescu concluded: "We ask that you join us in prayer that God will protect the children psychologically and physically, for only He can do it!"

The case has drawn protests around the world and led to sharp criticism of Barnevernet, which has frequently been accused of being high-handed in its treatment particularly of immigrant families. However, it has refused to comment on the case citing privacy issues and Norwegian authorities have defended their country's record on child protection.

The Bodnariu family will have to wait until at least March for their next court hearing. They are obliged to undergo a psychological evaluation beforehand.