FREISING, Germany, SEPT. 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Young gypsies will be encouraged this week to be protagonists of their society and their future at an international congress organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
Speaking on Vatican Radio this weekend, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, commented on the objectives of the 6th International Congress for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies, which will open today in Freising.
Some 150 participants are attending the event, which has as its theme “Young Gypsies in the Church and in Society.” The congress ends Thursday.
Archbishop Marchetto explained the theme for this year’s meeting: “It is necessary to invest in young people, that is, offer them the opportunity of education and professional formation, growth and development of that great human and spiritual potential that they bear.”
The archbishop said the congress has several objectives: “To consider their spiritual and material needs, denounce and heal their situations of disadvantage that objectively weigh on them, and, furthermore, to identify the most adequate ways to support their human, professional and religious formation.
“Moreover, we will offer them the occasion to express their own desires and needs to promote an authentic integration — which is not assimilation — and a greater participation in the projects and decisions and activities that concern them.”
Archbishop Marchetto said much progress is being made regarding the pastoral care of Gypsies, adding that in almost every European country there is a pastoral organization helping them.
Last year his dicastery organized the first International Meeting of Priests, Deacons and Religious of Gypsy Origin, which had about 40 participants.
Also, in 2005 the council published “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies,” which is “the first document of the Church, in its universal dimension, dedicated to the Gypsy populations and nomads in general.”
“Even if [Gypsies] are often relegated to the margins of society and discriminated against,” Archbishop Marchetto said, “they continue to have the place that is theirs, as Paul VI said, ‘in the heart of the Church.’”
“We want to encourage the concrete and lasting commitment of young Gypsies to the betterment of the conditions of their community’s life, and to defend their dignity and rights,” he added, emphasizing that “at the same time there will also be a place to remind them of the obligation to assume all the duties that come with responsible participation in social, political and ecclesial life.”
The archbishop said that the congress will also call on governments “to adopt regulations that truly safeguard the rights of Gypsy populations and protect them against discrimination, racism and marginalization,” and will invite them to “open and constructive dialogue with the representatives of the Gypsy communities.”