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    Thursday, March 02, 2006


    Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the council, said the council estimates there are 15 million Gypsies in Europe, about 1 million in the United States and significant communities in Latin America, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

    The document said, "Their age-old resistance to any census -- often a harbinger of deportation -- and the fact that" Gypsies who have put down roots "are usually not counted in censuses as Gypsies, make it more difficult to provide an accurate head count and track their geographical distribution."

    The fact that the communities move or have moved frequently across national borders often leaves them at risk of expulsion and persecution because they have no home country to defend their rights or offer them refuge, the document said.

    Despite movements to protect minorities and to value other cultures, civil society and even the Catholic Church often fail to defend Gypsy communities from blatant prejudice and discrimination, a new Vatican document said.

    "From habitual prejudices to signs of rejection," Gypsies still suffer exclusion and expulsion, "often without any reaction or protest from those who witness them," said the document from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

    While the document acknowledged that the religious education of Gypsies must help them leave behind practices not in accordance with Gospel values, it said Catholics could value much of Gypsy culture.

    "The family is at the center of Gypsies' lives," it said. "Being a Gypsy means being vitally and strongly rooted in the family, where collective memory and awareness shape everyone," where elders are venerated for their wisdom, and the deceased are remembered with special prayers.

    In addition, it said, "their wandering is, in any case, a permanent and symbolic reminder of life's journey toward eternity."

    Cardinal Hamao said, "Their way of life is essentially a living witness to inner freedom from the bonds of consumerism and false security based on people's presumed self-sufficiency."

    An amazing lifestyle.


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