Romani participant in international pilgrimage: Meeting the Pope is the experience of a lifetime
Anna Bystrá was a participant in the recent meeting with Pope Francis at the International Pilgrimage of Gypsies in Rome. News server Romea.cz interviewed her about her experience there.
Q: What did traveling to see the Pope mean for you?
A: What primarily led me to Rome is my strong belief in God. The opportunity to meet the Holy Father, although I only saw him from afar, was an unreal honor for me. It's something you actually experience only once in your life. I find the current Pope to be especially nice, and not just because he accepted us Roma from all over the world.
Q: What did it feel like to meet him?
A: As I said, it was something extraordinary. The program was rather physically demanding, every day we got up early in the morning and we didn't go to sleep until late at night, but the visit to Rome gave me an unreal amount of energy. The most beautiful experience was, naturally, the reception of thousands of Roma by the Holy Father. There were Romani people from all over the world - Italy, Romania, Spain, the United States... We were able to speak with some of them, but sometimes it wasn't even necessary, all we had to do was smile. It was beautiful to see so many Romani believers in one place. The atmosphere was unbelievably lovely. However, it's an enormous shame that so few of us from the Czech Republic were there. Actually in that moment I greatly regretted that the Slovaks are more successful in that sense and that from our country almost no one was capable of organizing a trip to Rome.
Q: How did you make it to the Rome trip?
A: I traveled there with a group of Roma from Slovakia. It was led by my friend of many years, Sister Atanázia, a Romani woman who has worked at the Romani housing estate of Poštárka in Bardějov for years now. That's my home town even though I have been living in Prague for 30 years. Atanázia has long been leading the local Romani people in Bardějov to the faith and this is not the first time that she has traveled outside of Slovakia with them on a pilgrimage. As a little girl I traveled with her to Christian camps. When she called me a while back to ask whether I wanted to go with them to the Vatican to see the Holy Father, I did not hesitate for even one minute. I also brought two other Romani women with me from Prague.
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