Pope: Church Must Be a Welcoming Face to Gypsies

Says New Measures Must Be Taken to Confront This Complex Reality

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Francis has lamented that gypies are one of the groups most vulnerable to slavery.

During a morning audience at the Vatican with the participants in a conference on the theme, “The Church and gypsies: proclaiming the Gospel in the peripheries,” the Pope spoke about what is needed to confront the situation of gypsies throughout the world. 

The meeting was organizeed by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

The Holy Father’s message stressed that «new civil, cultural and social approaches, as well as a new pastoral strategy for the Church» are necessary elements to combat “modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery.»

The theme of the meeting,  Francis said, involves “the memory of a relationship, that between the ecclesiastical community and the gypsy population, the history of a journey to get to know each other, to encounter one another; and then the challenge for today, a challenge that regards both ordinary pastoral care and new evangelisation.»

He added that often gypsies find themselves on the margins of society, “and at times are looked upon with hostility and suspicion; they are rarely involved in the political, economic and social dynamics of the country.»

He continued: “We know that it is a complex reality, but certainly the gypsy population is also required to contribute to the common good, and this is possible with adequate itineraries of co-responsibility, the observance of duties and the promotion of the rights of every person.»

Observing causes of misery among various sectors of the population, he noted some include “a lack of educational structures for cultural and professional formation, the difficulty of access to healthcare, discrimination in the employment market and a lack of decent accommodation.”

He added that while these social ills affect everyone, “the weakest groups are those who most easily become victims of new forms of slavery. Indeed, the least protected are those who fall into the trap of abuse, forced begging and other forms of abuse. Gypsies are among the most vulnerable, especially those who are receive no help in relation to integration or the promotion of the person in the various dimensions of civil life”.

The Pope said that «indeed, the Gospel is the proclamation of joy for all and especially for the weakest and most marginalised. We are called upon to ensure our closeness and solidarity to these people, following the example of Jesus Christ, who demonstrated His Father’s predilection for them.»

However, alongside this united action in favour of the gypsy population, there needs to be “commitment on the part of local and national institutions and the support of the international community, to identify projects and action for improving quality of life.»

Urging the Pontifical Council to continue in its task and not to be discouraged, the Pope closed saying: “May gypsies find in you brothers and sisters who love them with the same love that Christ had for the marginalised. Be, for them, the welcoming and joyful face of the Church.» (D.C.L.)

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