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‘Uproot secular prejudice,’ Francis tells gathering of gypsies

Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives for an audience with Roma, Sinti and others groups of travellers at the Vatican (AP)

Pope Francis has called on gypsies to “uproot secular prejudice” and “preconceived ideas” about the travelling community.

The Pontiff was speaking to 7,000 gypsies in the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, to mark the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s meeting with Roma people in a camp near Rome.

“Time has come, he said, to uproot secular prejudice, preconceived ideas and the reciprocal diffidence that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

He added: “No one is entitled to trample on the dignity and the rights of others”.

The Pope urged the gathering to reach out to the rest of society in order to foster “peaceful co-habitation”.

“We do not want to have to witness any more family tragedies in which children die from cold or are burnt in fires” he said.

Pope Francis is shown a statuette of the Virgin Mary during  the meeting (AP)
Pope Francis is shown a statuette of the Virgin Mary during the meeting (AP)

The Pontiff reportedly called on the Roma, Sinti and other travelling groups to become protagonists of fraternity, before adding, “You can do this if you are good Christians, avoiding all that is not worthy of this name: lies, frauds, swindles, altercations”.

The Pope also held up Blessed Zeffirino Giménez Malla as a model of religiosity and called on travellers to ensure their children receive an education.

“Your children have the right to go to school, do not stop them from doing so!” he said.