Gathering with Pope Francis will recall Pope Paul VI’s visit with community in 1965.
(Vatican Radio) A world meeting to examine and improve the pastoral care of gypsies will take place in the Vatican June 5-9.
Organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the meeting will gather Episcopal Promoters and National Directors of the Pastoral Care of Gypsies. The title of the event is “The Church and Gypsies: to Announce the Gospel On the Peripheries.” Participants include eight Episcopal Promoters, 16 National Directors and 22 experts (pastoral operators and consultants).
On the first day of the meeting the participants will be received in audience by Pope Francis.
Organizers say the meeting proposes to focus on two objectives: to re-examine the Church’s pastoral commitment towards Gypsies keeping in mind the current social situation that demands a series of renewed pastoral strategies, and to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to Pomezia (Sept. 27, 1965) on the occasion of the international pilgrimage of Gypsies, a visit that marked an important opening of the Church towards the community.
In a press release, the Council points out that in a changing social context, the pastoral care of Gypsies must be renewed so it is able to meet such challenges in the light of the Gospel.
It will also be an occasion to reflect on the indications Pope Francis has offered in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, regarding evangelization in the world today.
A specific Pastoral Ministry for Gypsies is well established in 24 different countries, in particular in Europe, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India and Bangladesh, where many Christian communities are enriched by ethnic gypsy consecrated lay people, priests, deacons and religious.
An important element that will be taken into consideration is the growing number of consecrated gypsies in the world. Today there are about 170 of them.
Gypsies so far have one Blessed – Zefferino Giménez Malla – proclaimed “Martyr of the Rosary” by Pope Benedict XVI. The beatification process for two other gypsies (Emilia and Juan Ramon) is currently underway.
The two-day meeting will feature discourses by Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò and of Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and then a series of sessions dedicated to different aspects of the issue, as well as the testimony of Father Mario Riboldi who was present during Pope Paul VI’s meeting with Gypsies in Pomezia.
There are some 36 million Gypsies in the world today located mostly in Europe, the Americas and in some Asian countries. In India, the land of origin of this population, there are an estimated 18 million. Bangladesh counts over 500,000 Sea Gypsies. In the United States there are almost 1 million Gypsies; in Brazil over 900,000.
Official figures provided by the Council of Europe estimate between 10 and 12 million Gypsies living in Europe, most of them in Eastern countries.