Vatican Calls for Better Education for Gypsies

Also Decries Their Forced Sterilizations

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is urging better treatment for Gypsies, particularly the end to "special schools" for the ethnic group and the forced sterilization of their women.



These are two of the exhortations found in the final document of 6th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies. The conference was held Sept. 1-4 in Freising, Germany. The document was released today by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, which cosponsored the event with the German bishops' conference.

One hundred and fifty delegates participated in the conference, which was focused on "Gypsy Youth in the Church and Society."

The final document proposes that one of the key elements in ministry to Gypsies is the theme of education.

"Education is the fundamental process for the fulfillment of personal potential, and it is necessary for integration in society," a statement from the pontifical council affirmed. "It is necessary to prohibit the registration of Gypsies in 'special schools,' which generates humiliation.

"Education is a condition for participation in political, social and economic life, based on a position of equality with the others. It should, therefore, motivate rightly critical reflection and responsibility, which in turn, are needed to build up an ever more human society, based on the principles of justice, equality and fraternity."

Education for a career was one of the principal concerns expressed at the conference, given that "youth should overcome walls, created also because of weaknesses in the educational system, which are an obstacle to their access to the world of work."

Family life

The conference also decried "forced sterilizations and those campaigns that tend to destabilize the concept of family among the Gypsies."

"The education of women must be guaranteed among fundamental rights," the statement affirmed, "along with intercultural dialogue, the participation of the youth in democratic citizenship, social cohesion and the development of youth policies."

The document proposed that "it would be useful to ask humanitarian organizations and Caritas for the distribution of microcredits […] allotted to those families and communities that show greatest capacity to use them in favor of their ethnic group."

The conference participants called for support from the Church for gypsies, though it recognized the inherent difficulties in ministering to the group.

In ministry to Gypsies, the text affirmed, "ecclesial movements and the new communities that the Holy Spirit draws forth in the Church could carry out an important role."

"Excluded, confined to the margins of humanity, humiliated, the Gypsies need a living Church, a Church-communion, capable of forming and helping them to overcome difficulties that great policies do not manage to overcome," the document said. Nevertheless, "the act of presenting oneself lovingly and with the desire to proclaim the good news is not sufficient to create a trusting relationship among Gypsies […] given the weight of history and all of the wrongs they have suffered.

"The Gypsy population, therefore, is suspicious of the initiatives of all those who try to enter into their world. It is possible to rise above this initial attitude only with concrete gestures of solidarity, with life in common and with projects […] that favor the participation and acceptance of Gypsy youth."