Almost 2 000 Romani people granted historic audience with the Pope
Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI called on Europe not to forget the "too-little recognized" pain caused by the annihilation of Romani people in Nazi camps and to protect them from future "torment". During his historic reception of almost 2 000 Romani pilgrims from 20 European countries at the Vatican, the Pope also called on them to integrate into society and start writing a new page in European history.
The mass murder of Romani people during Nazism, according to the Pope, is "still a little-known drama" and the European conscience must not forget their pain. "May your people never again be the targets of torment, rejection or contempt," AFP reported the Pope as saying in his speech.
Benedikt XVI said "thousands of women, men and children" were barbarically murdered in the death camps. He pointed out that Europe, which considers its diversity of cultures and nations to be its wealth, is also offering Romani people new opportunities. "Serious problems and prejudices persist... Your sons have the right to a better life," the Pope emphasized. "I call on you, dear friends, to write a new page in history together for your people and for Europe!"
The Pope called on Romani people to work effectively and loyally so that their families may be included with dignity into European civil society. He said education is very important. "Many of you are young and wish to be educated and to live with everyone else like everyone else," he said. "Dignified housing and work, education for the children, these are the bases upon which integration must be built."
The Romani and other pilgrims, two-thirds of whom were from Italy, came to Rome to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Romani saint Ceferino Giménez Malla of Spain, who was beatified in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. The Pope listened to the testimonies of four people who survived the concentration camps: Ceija Stojka, a Romani woman from Austria who survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, two young Romani men who grew up in camps in Rome, and a Romani woman from Slovakia.
Cejia Stojka told the Holy Father the story of her extended family, the vast majority of whom were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. She told him how she can still hear the shouts of the SS and smell burning human flesh.
"I am afraid Auschwitz still exists. It is just asleep for now," Cejia Stojka said in her address to the Pope.
The Pope warned the pilgrims of the dangers of joining cults. "The Church is a home for you all," he emphasized.
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