The Roma, also known as the Romani people, are a traditionally nomadic group originating from the Indian subcontinent. There are an estimated 12 million Roma in Europe, around two-thirds of whom live in central and eastern European countries.
“Dear Roma friends, I know well your history, your reality, your fears, and your hopes,” he said, looking forward to future events organized by the Diocese of Rome through a project called “A kick to exclusion.”
“Last Sept. 14 in Košice, Slovakia, I visited the Roma community. I invited them to move from prejudice to dialogue, from isolation to integration,” he said.
“After listening to the testimonies of some members of the community — stories of pain, redemption, and hope — I reminded everyone that to be Church is ‘to live as a people called by God, each with his or her special role to play, all as members of the same team.’”
“I used precisely these expressions, taken from the language of soccer, which also fit very well with the meaning of your game.”
He went on: “Too many times, I told the Roma people of Košice, the Roma have ‘been the object of prejudice and harsh judgments, discriminatory stereotypes, defamatory words, and gestures. As a result, we are all poorer in humanity.’”
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“For this reason, the sporting event to which you will give life has great significance: it indicates that the way to peaceful coexistence is integration. And the basis is the education of children.”
The soccer match, organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, will be played on Nov. 21, in the town of Formello, 45 minutes north of Italy’s capital.
The match, on the training grounds of Italy’s Lazio football club, will also raise funds for a Roma inclusion project organized by the Diocese of Rome.
In his address, the pope noted that the World Rom Organization, which has its headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, runs inclusive sporting events with special attention to minorities and people with disabilities.
He described the group’s activities as a sign of hope.
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