Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning to participants on the World Pilgrimage of Gypsy People.
The Pilgrimage was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in collaboration with the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference, with the Migrantes Office of the Diocese of Rome and with Sant’Egidio Community.
This year’s pilgrimage commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Blessed Paul VI to the nomads camp of Pomezia (September 26, 1965).
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome and greet you all cordially. I thank Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio for his words and for having organized this event in collaboration with the “Migrantes” Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference, with the “Migrantes” Office of the Diocese of Rome and Sant’Egidio Community.
Dear gypsy friends, o Dei si tumentsa! [The Lord be with you!”]
Many of you come from afar and have made a long journey to arrive here. You are welcome! I thank you for wishing to commemorate together the historic meeting of Blessed Paul VI with the nomad people. Fifty years have passed since he came to visit you in the camp of Pomezia. With paternal urgency the Pope said to your grandparents and parents: “Wherever you stop you are considered a bother and as strangers […] Here no; […] here you find someone that loves you, esteems you, appreciates you and assists you” (Insegnamenti III , 491). With these words, he spurred the Church to pastoral commitment with your people, encouraging you also at the same time to trust her. From that day up to today, we have been witnesses of great changes, as much in the field of evangelization, as in the human, social and cultural promotion of your community. We heard Doctor Peter Polak , his experience, and how this way must be promoted and continued to be promoted.
A strong sign of faith and spiritual growth of your ethnic groups is the ever- increasing number of priestly and diaconal vocations and of consecrated life. With us here today is Bishop Devprasad Ganava, who is also a son of this people. To you, dear consecrated, your brothers and sisters look with trust and hope for the role that you carry out and for all that you can do in the process of reconciliation within the society and the Church. You are a means between two cultures and, therefore, you are asked to be witnesses of evangelical transparency to foster the birth, growth and care of new vocations. Be able to accompany them not only in their spiritual journey but also in the ordinariness of daily life with all its toils, joys and preoccupations.
I know the difficulties of your people. On visiting some Roman parishes on the outskirts of the city, I have been able to appreciate your problems, your anxieties, and I saw that these issues call upon not only the Church but also the local authorities. I was able to see the precarious conditions in which many of you live, due to negligence and to the lack of work and of the necessary means of subsistence. This is contrary to the right of every person to a fitting life, to fitting work, to education and to health care. The moral and social order impose that every human being be able to enjoy his fundamental rights and respond to his duties. On this basis it is possible to build peaceful coexistence, in which the different cultures and traditions protect the respective values in an attitude — not of closure and opposition – but of dialogue and integration. We do not want to witness any longer family tragedies in which the children die of cold or among flames, or become objects in the hands of depraved persons, young people and women are involved in the traffic of drugs and of human beings. And this happens because we often fall into indifference and into the incapacity to accept customs and ways of life that are different from our own.
I would like a new history to begin for your people also, a renewed history, that the page be turned! The time has arrived to eradicate secular prejudices, preconceptions and mutual diffidence that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia. No one should feel isolated, and no one is authorized to strike the dignity and rights of others. It is the spirit of mercy that calls us to fight so that all these values are guaranteed. Therefore, let us allow the Gospel to shake our consciences and let us open our hearts and our hands to the neediest and most marginalized, beginning with the ones closest to us. I exhort you first of all, in today’s cities in which so much individualism is breathed, to commit yourselves to build more human peripheries, bonds of fraternity and sharing; you have this responsibility, it is also your task. And you can do it if you are first of all good Christians, avoiding all that is not worthy of this name: falsehood, frauds, mix ups, quarrels. You have the example of Blessed Zeffirino Gimenez Malla, son of your people, who is distinguished for his virtues, humility and honesty, and for his great devotion to Our Lady, a devotion that led him to martyrdom and to be known as “Martyr of the Rosary.” I propose him again to you today as a model of life and religiosity, also because of the cultural and ethnic ties that link you to him.
Dear friends, do not give the media and public opinion occasions to speak badly of you. You yourselves are the protagonists of your present and of your future. Like all citizens, you can contribute to the wellbeing and the progress of society, respecting the laws, accomplishing your duties and integrating yourselves also through the emancipation of the new generations. I see here in the Hall many young people and many children: they are the future of your people but also of the society in which they live. The children are your most precious treasure. Today your culture is in a phase of change; technological development renders your youngsters increasingly aware of their potentialities and their dignity, and they themselves feel the need to work for the personal human promotion of your people. This calls for their being assured of adequate schooling. And you must ask for this: it is a right!
Education is surely the basis for a person’s healthy development. It is noted that the poor level of schooling of many of your young people is today the main obstacle for access to the world of work. Your children have the right to go to school; do not impede them from doing so! Your children have the right to go to school! It is important that the impetus to better education come from the family, come from the parents, come from the grandparents; it is the task of the adults to ensure that the youngsters attend school. Access to education enables your young people to become active citizens, to participate in the political, social and economic life in the respective countries.
Requested of the civil institutions is the commitment to guarantee adequate formative courses for young gypsies, giving possibilities also to families that live in the most difficult conditions to benefit from adequate schooling and labor insertion. The process of integration poses to society the challenges of knowing the culture, the history and the values of the gypsy populations. May your culture and your values be known by all!
Many times, also on the part of Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, you have been assured of the affection and encouragement of the Church. Now I would like to conclude with the words of Blessed Paul VI, who affirmed to you: “You are not on the margins in the Church, but, under certain aspects, you are at the center, you are at the heart. You are at the heart of the Church” (Ibid., 491-492). Mary is also in this heart, venerated by you as Our Lady of the Gypsies, whom we will shortly crown again to recall the gesture carried out by Pope Montini fifty years ago. I entrust you, your families and your future to her and to Blessed Zeffirino. And please, I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]