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Drahomír Radek Horváth: Criticizing the Pope's reception of Romani people is disgraceful

30.11.2015 4:27
Drahomír Radek Horváth (photo: Saša Uhlová)
Drahomír Radek Horváth (photo: Saša Uhlová)

On 26 October 2015 Pope Francis met with several thousand Roma and Sinti. "The aim of this event is to remind Romani people and the entire community that the Church is open to those who live on the outskirts of society," the Vatican communicated ahead of the meeting.

Gheorghe Raducanu, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), has written to the Pope in an open letter that he has "unwittingly encourage[d] further marginalisation and discrimination of Roma". William Bila has joined that criticism, who contributes to a blog run by the European Roma Rights Centre.

Bila has focused, among other things, on the Pope's remarks declaring that Romani parents should not prevent their offspring from attending school. Pope Francis made his appearance on 26 October at a meeting with several thousand Roma and Sinti during which he gave his listeners advice, among other matters, on the topics of coexistence, education and also how to be good Christians.

Had this been a meeting with representatives of the Czech Education Ministry, then I would probably have anticipated the Pope to rebuke them over segregated schools. If this had been a meeting with a delegation of the high representatives of France, then undoubtedly what we would have heard from the lips of Christ's Vicar would have been a complaint regarding the policy of removing Romani people from the land of the Gallic rooster.

Had this been a meeting with a delegation of representatives of the media and public opinion brokers, undoubtedly the Holy Father would have urged them to halt the dissemination of a negative image of Romani people. On 26 October, however, at the meeting with the head of the office of St. Peter, none of these parties were present, just Romani people, and Romani people only, and the words of Pope Francis were aimed precisely at them/us.

We Roma are mostly believers, we believe in God and we are usually Catholics. However, almost all Romani people are superstitious.

The Roma believe in delusions such as the existence of ghosts of the deceased, table-turning by spirits, fortune-telling, the occult, and the reading of cards. Lots of Roma are actively involved in these perversions.

The Pope's message to us did not enumerate our sins, nor the shortcomings mentioned above, but, as a carpenter from Nazareth did so clearly thousands of years ago, showed us that he knows they exist. Through his speech on that day, he simply delivered the following Biblical message to the Roma:  "Go in peace and sin no more!"

This lack of understanding of the Pope's message by the Romani activists criticizing the Pope is even more sad than it is childish and narrow-minded. Because it is precisely these activists who influence public opinion inside the Romani community.

Through their critique of the Pope, these Romani representatives are sending a clear signal to all Roma. It is quite obvious that many Roma have gotten used to the idea that criticism of us is not correct, that it's not our fault if the world around us is simply unfriendly towards us.

In addition to giving up on change from within, we have simply become accustomed to those around us constantly blaming us for something. We acknowledge the discrimination around us, and the positive discrimination, such as that included in the Czech Government's new Romani Integration Concept, is something we even welcome.

Hypocrisy is not alien to us. We see the speck of sawdust in our brother's eye, but fail to see the beam in our own.

This criticism of the Pope is a disgrace. It will come back to haunt us.

Drahomír Radek Horváth, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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