Pope Benedict XVI has met a delegation of about 1,400 representatives of various Gypsy communities including Roma, Sinti, Manouche, Kale, Yenish and Travellers of Europe and Italy representing the 12 million or so Roma peoples (170,000 in Italy) living throughout Europe. Their two-day visit was due to include an audience with the Pope on Saturday and marked 75th anniversary of the martyrdom and the 150 years since the birth, of Blessed Zeffirino Giménez Malla (1861-1936). He was killed for his faith during the Spanish Civil War and is the first Gypsy to be beatified.
"It is an important sign for the Church" said Mgr Giancarlo Perego, director of the Migrants Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference, one of the organizers of the pilgrimage, along with the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Migrants and Itinerants (PCPMI), the dioceses of Rome and the Sant'Egidio Community.
Mgr Giancarlo Perego said: "The meeting prepares the Pentecost, the solemnity during which the Church rethinks itself as universal, Catholic, where everyone should feel at home. Evangelization asks today's Christians to go from Nazareth to Jerusalem and to stop to meet the others'. And among these others there are the Roma." He said the Roma people often met with prejudice and violence but he pointed out that people actually know very little about them. The Pope's meeting reminds us that it is not possible to build a Church, a city without the Roma".
The Gypsy world is made up of may ethnicities - among which the best known are the Roma, Sinti, Manouche, Kale, Yenish, Romanichals, Xoraxané, Kanjarija, Rudari and Ari. Their total population is estimated to be 36 million worldwide, all known by the generic name 'Gypsy'. The largest single communities, 18 million, lives in India, while some 12-15 million are in Europe, with a high concentration in Eastern Europe. There are almost 1.5 million in the USA and some 900,000 in Brazil. Romania and Hungary are the two countries with the highest Gypsy population concentrations (between 1,800,000 and 2,500.e 2.500.000). In Bulgaria e Spain they number some 800,000.
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