BY CHRISTINA WHITE
AS GYPSIES GATHERED in Rome last Sunday to celebrate the beatification of Gypsy martyr, Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Ma11a, the Church called for an end to discrimination against travelling people.
Pope John Paul II, who dressed for the occasion in a chasuble of orange and gold, spoke of the life and martyrdom of Malta as an inspiration to all. Here was a man of devout faith, courage and integrity, he said. "He showed how Christ is present in different peoples."
The gypsy hero was arrested by Franco's army in Barbastro, Spain, in 1936 for aiding a young priest. In jail he refused to stop praying the rosary and was shot with 13 others. The Pontiff praised him as a man of faith: "Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla knew how to sow agreement and solidarity among his own and also mediated between non-Gypsies and Gypsies, demonstrating that the love of Christ knows no limits of race or culture."
Over 4,000 Gypsies made the journey to Rome for the celebrations. Prayers were offered in Spanish and Romany. Spanish Gypsy guitars and violins provided traditional music.
Archbishop Giovanni Cheli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers, said the beatification showed that the way to sainthood is open to all.
Also beatified on Sunday were: Italian Fr Gaetano Catanoso, founder of the Veronica Sisters of the Holy Face; Camilian Fr Enrico Rebushini, who cared for the sick and Sr Maria Encarnacion Rosal, reformer of the Bethlehem Sisters.