Pope Francis on Thursday presided over a prayer meeting with some 500 minority Roma and Sinti people and expressed his pain at the discrimination and racial hatred they face.
Pope Francis on Thursday expressed his closeness with the minority Roma and Sinti people of Rome saying he suffers and is greatly pained when he hears about insults, racial hatred and violence against them. “This is not civilisation… Love is civilisation,” the Pope told some 500 of them during a prayer meeting in the Vatican.
The initiative organised by the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) was attended by pastoral workers, CEI president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti and others. The prayer meeting came in the wake of violent protests by residents of a Rome periphery against the allotment of an apartment in a government housing complex to a nomad family.
After hearing moving testimonies of a Roma priest and a mother of 4, the Pope regretted the “bitter pain of segregation” that they feel on their skin and that pushes them aside. “Society lives on fairy tales,” stereotyping people as beggars and sinners, the Pope said, asking, “Are you not a sinner?” He said that all of us are sinners, we all make mistakes in life but I cannot wash my hands of them, looking out for the real or fake sins of others. The Holy Father said that one needs to first look at one’s own sins, and if he or she sees someone making a “wrong turn,” to help the person out.
Adjectives create rift between mind and heart
“One thing that makes me angry,” the Pope said, “is that we are used to talking about people with adjectives.” Stereotyping persons with adjectives such as ugly, bad and evil are something “that creates distances between the mind and the heart.”
This, he said, is not a political, social, cultural or language problem, but one of “distance between the mind and heart.”
The Holy Father admitted that “second-class citizens” do exist “but the real second-class citizens are those who discard people… because they cannot embrace.” With adjectives and slander, he said, these people throw out and discard others with a broom in hand.
“Instead, the real road is that of brotherhood.” He warned against the danger and weakness of letting resentment or grudge grow because rancour sickens the heart, the head and everything and leads to revenge.
Without mentioning names, the Pope alluded to criminal organisations in Italy who he said are “masters of revenge” – “a group of people who are able to take revenge and live in “‘omerta” [code of silence]. “This is a group of delinquent people; not people who want to work.”
The Pope concluded urging all not to create distances in the mind and heart with adjectives.
With thanks to Vatican Media and Robin Gomes, where this article originally appeared.