London, June 3 (IANS) Pope Francis has apologised to the Roma people on behalf of the Catholic Church for the persecution they have faced historically, during his visit to Romania.
At a meeting with Roma people on the last day of his visit to the country, the pontiff asked forgiveness for “all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you”.
Roma people have faced persecution in Europe for centuries.
Hundreds of thousands are thought to have been killed during the Holocaust.
Nowadays Roma live mainly in southern and central Europe, and make up about 10 per cent of Romania’s total population. They complain they struggle to get work because of discrimination, and many live in poverty.
“I ask forgiveness – in the name of the Church and of the Lord – and I ask forgiveness of you,” Pope Francis said in the central town of Blaj, the BBC reported.
“Indifference breeds prejudices and fosters anger and resentment,” the pontiff said. “How many times do we judge rashly, with words that sting, with attitudes that sow hatred and division!”
“This is a historic moment for me and my people,” Damian Draghici, a Roma MEP for Romania, told the BBC. “I hope this message will change people’s attitude and stereotypes against our people.”