“The true path is brotherhood with an open door. And we all should work together”. These are the impromptu words addressed by Pope Francis to the 500 Romani and Sinti people gathered in Rome for a meeting promoted by the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
During the prayer held with them at the Vatican Sala Regia in the morning, the Holy Father pointed out “it’s true: there are second-class citizens but the real second-class citizens are those who reject people, those who live holding a broom to throw away the others”. He then added: “if you tell me it is a political problem, a social problem, a cultural problem, a language problem: these are secondary things. The problem is a problem of distance between the mind and the heart. That’s it: it is a problem of distance”.
The Pope thus encouraged the Romani people not to give way to grudge, but to “carry on with dignity: the dignity of the family, the dignity of work, the dignity of earning one’s bread every day. This is what allows you to carry on: the dignity of prayer”.
In the final prayer the Pope recalled the patron saint of the Romani people, Blessed Zefirino Giménez Malla, a Franciscan tertiary who was shot in 1936 because he had defended a priest and his rosary.
The 500 Romani and Sinti people were accompanied by the Pope’s vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference Migration Commission and of the Migrantes Foundation, Bishop Guerino Di Tora, the auxiliary bishop of Rome and the secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference Migration Commission, Mons. Paolo Lojudice, and the bishop of Avezzano, Mons. Pietro Santoro. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was represented by the Under-Secretary Mons. Segundo Tejado Muñoz.
In the afternoon the group moved to the Santuario del Divino Amore di Roma for a space dedicated to culture, art and music, to which all Roman citizens were invited. The initiative was aimed – as explained on the website of the Migrantes Foundation – to favour the encounter between Roman citizens and Romani and Sinti people, in the knowledge that “All fears and walls can only be overcome through encounter”.
The Foundation thus recalls the words of Pope Francis to the migrant communities met in Bologna in October 2017: “Many people do not know you and they are afraid. This makes them feel they have the right to judge and to do so harshly and coldly, also thinking that they see things clearly. But that is not so. One can only see well through closeness which brings mercy”.