16 December 2014, The Tablet

Pope tells Gypsies to contribute to the common good

Pope Francis has told a group of Roma Gypsies "work hard" and "don’t give up hope".

Speaking as he met 40 Roma during a visit to a parish on Sunday, Francis said: "I wish all good things for you. That you will always have peace in your families, that you have work, that you have joy."

"Stay close to the Church always," he told them. "Have faith in God, hope in God and work hard."

After the speech, Pope Francis greeted and hugged the Gypsies, who live in a camp near the Prima Porta suburb of Rome.

The district has recently been the scene of protests by residents outside schools attended by Roma children.

Previously Francis has hit out at prejudice against Gypsies, urging people to stem their "hostility and suspicion" and calling on authorities to help those "on the margins of society".

He acknowledged that they are often deprived of education and health-care, which has led to many gypsies becoming susceptible to "new forms of slavery" in society such as forced begging.

But he said: "The Gypsy people are also called on to contribute to the common good."

Italy, which has one of the largest Roma populations outside Romania, has regularly experiences conflicts between local and gypsy communities.

In March hundreds fled one of the country’s largest camps near Naples after a mob attacked them, following an alleged attempted rape of an Italian girl.

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