Gypsies Seen as Key Agents of Their Own Pastoral Care

Conclusions of Meeting Held in Brazil

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SAO PAULO, JULY 12, 2002 ( Gypsies need to become protagonists of their own pastoral care, given the few priests who can attend full time to their special needs, says a Vatican official.

«Some pastors regard gypsies as a small group that does not need special pastoral care,» Father Michael Blume, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, told an assembly in Brazil.

«The result is that there are few priests who are completely dedicated to this task,» he said.

The priest, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, was addressing the National Brazilian Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads. The assembly, held July 2-5 at the initiative of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, echoed his views in its own conclusions.

«This situation calls for pastoral care in which the gypsies themselves are involved, as subjects and protagonists,» Father Blume emphasized. In this way, he added, vocations to the priesthood will be fostered among gypsies «so that their people will be well represented.»

To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to surmount the difficulties that nomad peoples find in integrating themselves in local churches. Their lack of religious education also exposes them to the pressure of religious sects, Father Blume said.

«Part of the pastoral task is the integration of nomad families in the community that receives them» as well as «the creation of personal parishes where the circumstances require it,» he continued.

The priest called for the recognition and promotion of the values that characterize the gypsy world: hospitality, solidarity, strong adherence to the faith and to the traditions of their forebears. The great majority of Brazil’s 800,000 gypsies are Catholics.

During the assembly, the Brazilian bishops’ Commission for the Pastoral Care of Nomads published a pastoral document on gypsies, which included the key pronouncements of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II on the occasion of meetings with gypsies since 1965.

That year, in Pomezia, Italy, Pope Paul VI crowned the statute of the Virgin Queen of Gypsies, now venerated in the chapel of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers.

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