The Norman Transcript


June 6, 2014

Pope speaks up for Roma people’s rights

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday denounced the “hostility and contempt” that Roma people face in everyday life, and he called for better efforts to integrate them into “civilized life.”

Speaking off the cuff at the end of a Vatican-hosted conference on preaching the Gospel to Roma people, the pontiff recalled witnessing concrete examples of discrimination.

“I remember seeing many times, here in Rome, bus drivers telling passengers, ‘Watch your wallet!’ when gypsies get on board. This is contemptuous. Maybe it is true (that they should watch their wallets), but it is contemptuous,” Francis said.

An estimated 7,000 Roma people live in the Italian capital, mostly in miserable conditions in camps on the outskirts of the city or in squatted buildings. They are routinely blamed for petty crimes such as burglaries and pick-pocketing.

In other remarks from a pre-prepared speech, Francis said Roma people “are also called to contribute to the common good, and this is possible with adequate paths of shared responsibility, observing the obligations and promoting the rights of each one.”

Noting that people are vulnerable “above all when they lack help for integration and the promotion of the individual in various dimensions of civilized life,” Francis recalled Roma people’s poor access to housing, health care, schooling and work opportunities.

The Argentine-born pontiff is seen as a champion of social justice. Since his election last year, he has spoken up for migrant rights, denounced human trafficking and criticized greed and unbridled capitalism.

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