Popes
   Over the years, a number of popes have interacted with the Gypsies-in a positive or negative way. In 1423, Pope Martin possibly gave a safe conduct letter to Duke Andrew of Little Egypt. A copy of the presumed document has survived, and there is a record of Andrew and his followers setting off for Rome, but no record of a meeting. Between 1550 and 1557, several edicts were passed in the Papal States declaring that Gypsies had to leave the territory or the men would be sent to the galleys and the women whipped.
   In his Christmas message of 1942, Pius XII spoke of the "hundreds of thousands of people who, solely because of their nation or their race, have been condemned to death or progressive extinction." He has been criticized for not opposing the Nazi regime more actively.
   In September 1965, Paul VI addressed 2,000 Gypsies at Pomezia. He talked of his "dearest nomads-perpetual pilgrims who have found a home in the heart of the Catholic church" and named Mary as "queen of the Gypsies." This was followed by a Mass and a concert in St. Peter's Square, Rome. The Holy See then set up the International Secretariat for Apostolate of Nomads, which later became the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
   John Paul II attended the Ostia Conference organized by the Centro Studi Zingari in 1991 and addressed its delegates. He stressed the Gypsies' love of the family and the fact that they were not using weapons in their fight for their rights. Later, in 1993, he wrote a letter of solidarity to the Gypsy memorial gathering at Auschwitz. John Paul included Romani as one of the languages of his regular greetings.

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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  • Popes —    see Gregory I; John XXIII …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

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