Romea reports that the Vatican's office for migrants issued a set of guidelines for priests, nuns and lay groups on preaching Catholicism to Gypsies, urging Catholic priests and others to help Gypsies in their difficult, everyday lives so that they could win their trust and evangelise them.
The document says that Europe's Gypsies are by nature religious but that they often adopt the main confession of the country in which they live: Lutheran, Reformed, Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim or other.
It said Gypsies often turned to non- mainstream Protestant groups described as "sects."
"This constitutes a rather urgent call to open our arms to a population that, despite everything, constantly yearns to meet God," the Vatican document says.
Since Gypsies are spread out and often move around, the guidelines recommended that lay Catholic communities, rather than traditional parishes that are responsible for specific territorial areas, be mobilised to try to invite Gypsies in.
"The church itself must become, in a certain sense, a Gypsy among Gypsies, so that they can participate fully in the life of the church," the document said.
The guidelines noted that it was almost impossible to know how many Gypsies live in various countries, since they traditionally live on the margins of society and resist census-taking for fear of deportation.
But it said their particular situation warranted special care, from the Church as well as national governments and international organisations, since Gypsies are often subject to prejudice and discrimination from the non-Gypsy communities in which they live.
It suggested that church personnel must live with Gypsies and establish relationships with them if they wanted to win their trust and preach Catholicism to them.
"The word of God proclaimed to Gypsies in the various fields of pastoral action is more likely to be well received if it is proclaimed by someone who has concretely shown solidarity with them in everyday situations," the document said.
Vatican seeks to catholicize Gypsies (Romea, 14/3/07)
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15 Mar 2007