BY Peter Diamond | June 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Glasgow Roma community ‘thrilled’ with pope’s apology

Glasgow’s Roma community has welcomed an apology from Pope Francis for the Church’s role in persecuting their people.

On Sunday during a papal visit to Romania, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for ‘all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at [the Roma people].

“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.

“Indifference breeds prejudices and fosters anger and resentment. How many times do we judge rashly, with words that sting, with attitudes that sow hatred and division.”

 

Glasgow connection

The Pope’s comments were shared with Glasgow’s Roma community by The Space, a charity run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul since 2013 which caters for Roma families.

Based in Govanhill, one of the most impoverished neighbourhoods in Scotland and one of the most ethnically diverse, The Space says that Roma women are often illiterate to the extent that they don’t know a holocaust of their people took place during the Second World War.

Margo Uprichard, chief executive of The Space, said: “We put on the video link of Pope Francis’ speech as it was the literacy class today. Some of them recognised him and were calling him Papa Francesco.”

 

Making a difference

Ms Uprichard added: “Initially, they had no idea what was going on but when we told them there was a positive response.

“These women are illiterate; in fact most Roma people are illiterate. They have no idea about the holocaust against their people, the Second World War or about the levels of persecution against their people.

“For many Roma people living in Glasgow everything in their lives has been word of mouth and they continue to be oblivious to the levels of discrimination against them.

“They are extremely discriminated against and persecuted but they are in that bubble, they are not aware of anything.

“Many of the women were really thrilled when we told them what Pope Francis had said, you could see how grateful they were towards his words because they are not treated the same in Romania.

“They hope things will get better for Roma people in their country now that Pope Francis has acknowledged them.

“They were so pleased to see the Pope say something like that and they hope it will make a difference.”

 

Growing

She added: “The Space are delighted that the Pope was in Romania, taking ownership of the Church’s wrongdoing and only good can now come from that.

“I think we cannot grow as a Church until we acknowledge our sins, repent and move forward.

“Pope Francis is doing that. He takes responsibility for past mistakes and you can see in particular with this Pope that everything comes from the heart.

“He lives and breathes the Gospel message and you can feel the genuine plea he makes when he speaks.”

 

Poverty

On the levels of poverty in Govanhill, Ms Uprichard explained: “We’ve not seen poverty like this in Glasgow for generations.

“I think it would be similar to when the Irish Catholic community first arrived in Glasgow the levels of poverty, illiteracy and persecution. There is a lot of work to be done to help these people.”

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