Gypsy Pilgrims to Have Audience With Benedict XVI

Meeting Was a Wish of Benedict XVI in His Concern for the Poor

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The pontifical council that oversees ministry to people on the move says that a group of some 2,000 Gypsies will meet with Benedict XVI on Saturday, at the wish of the Pontiff.

A continent-wide Gypsy pilgrimage to Rome for Pentecost is marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first Gypsy Blessed, Ceferino Giménez Malla, martyred in 1936 for defending a priest and possessing a rosary.

Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, will welcome the Gypsy pilgrims Saturday, assuring them that in the Church they can "find support in their life, often marked by marginalization and mistrust."

Four representatives of Gypsy communities, among them a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, will describe to Benedict XVI the life of itinerants.

Archbishop Vegliò told Vatican Radio that the Church promotes the minority rights of Gypsies.

"She advocates the authentic integration of this people and tries to help them integrate into society, while maintaining their cultural identity," he said. "The Church shall not, then, cease to remind that they too are called to assume their proper responsibilities."

The prelate spoke of integration as a two-way process, and emphasized education and participation in social and political life as keys.

"The society as well as Gypsies should be willing to follow the paths of dialogue and mutual enrichment, which allow us to evaluate and embrace positive aspects of each side," Archbishop Vegliò said.

"Moreover," he added, "to promote their social integration, it is necessary to raise awareness, aimed at creating a positive image of the Gypsies, of their cultural identity and values, such as the sense of the family, respect for elders, love for music, dance, etc. Since this is a process that involves two parties, I would insist that a great deal of trust, commitment and participation is also necessary on the part of Gypsies."

Gypsies and Popes

Pope Paul VI met with a Gypsy community Sept. 26, 1965, in Pomezia, near Rome.

Pope John Paul II received the participants in various Gypsy conferences held in Rome and, during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he asked for forgiveness for the sins committed by members of the Catholic Church against Gypsies.

John Paul II was also the Pope to beatify Blessed Ceferino, on May 4, 1997.