Outreach to Gypsies and Itinerants Urged

Bishops in England and Wales Call for Solidarity

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LONDON, DEC. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The English and Welsh bishops’ conference is calling on all Catholics to reach out to Gypsies and «travelers» in their neighborhoods.

Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue made that appeal this week on behalf of the episcopate’s Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship.

The bishops’ call follows Benedict XVI’s general-audience address on Dec. 7 in which, commenting on Psalm 137(138), he said that all leaders, governments and citizens must use their power to come to the aid of the poor and oppressed.

Bishop O’Donoghue said the plight of Gypsies and itinerants was worse than most other groups in our society.

«It is the Church’s responsibility to be the voice of the poor. If we do not, who will?» he said. «Among gypsies and travelers there is even greater poverty now than before. The more sophisticated society becomes, the more vulnerable travelers become. There are vulnerable people across the world, but we must also be conscious of those in our midst.»

The bishops endorse the view of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice that states that adequate site provision must be urgently addressed.

A July 2003 report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimated that there would be a need for between 1,000 and 2,000 new residential pitches and between 2,000 and 2,500 pitches on transit sites or stopping places by 2007.

The report recognizes that Gypsies and travelers now have licenses and that many argue that they should have tenancies. However, the report suggests a third option, comparable to the rights enjoyed by mobile home owners who are protected by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 which gives them, among other things, the right to sell, gift or will their mobile homes on site.

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