The Pope John XXIII Community’s encounters with the Roma and Sinti community date back to 1989 following the establishing of a friendship with a Roma family in Faenza, swiftly followed by friendships with other families in Rimini and Forlì. Personal meetings with Roma families, in the broadest sense of the word, enabled us to get to know these people.
The Community’s defining need to share our life has born a number of fruit over the years.
- In the 1990s some nuns from the Community lived for a number of years in the Roma camp in Via Portogallo, Rimini
- Now, whenever it is necessary and possible, Community members become next door neighbours to Roma families giving them a parking space for their camper vans in the garden of their own home, thus giving them a place in which to rest their head.
- In addition to welcoming them as neighbours, many Roma children have been directly welcomed into family homes and open families at the request of the social services when they are unable to stay with their own family.
To support the life of sharing and evangelising
The support for the life of sharing and evangelisation provided by the Community to Roma and Sinti individuals and families takes two forms: humanitarian action and moments of prayer and proclamation.
The following action is taken.
- Direct intervention in support of families providing materials, legal and educational assistance, including hospitality in associated welcoming centres, economic help, providing them with their basic needs, offering them housing solutions, helping them obtain healthcare standing by them and mediating in dealings with the social services, legal aid, assistance in prison, providing them with school text books and other learning materials, supporting them within the school system with mediation and meetings with teachers.
- Holding liturgy or prayer sessions on the principal Christian feast days, Easter and Christmas, and in May, associated with devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
A commitment to removing the causes of marginalisation
Our commitment to removing the causes of marginalisation has always been directed, above all, at defending the basic human and civil rights of the Roma and other travelling people, in order for them to able to free themselves from the social exclusion in which they are imprisoned, while preserving the cultural aspects that define their identity. The principal rights to be safeguarded are:
- A home
- Access to work
- The condition of children
Given the difficulty of achieving this objective, we have become aware of the need to join up with the international institutions and organisations tasked with safeguarding these rights.
The main interlocutors we have identified are:
- At Italian government level: U.N.A.R. (the Italian Anti-Racial Discrimination Department) with which we are accredited for working on inclusion strategies for Roma, Sinti and other travelling people.
- At ecclesiastical level: Fondazione Migrantes (Foundation for Migrants) at the Italian Episcopal Conference and the Comunità di Sant'Egidio
- At international level: thanks to our representation at the United Nations where the Pope John XXIII Community has been granted special consultative status at ECOSOC in Geneva.