BLAJ: Pope Francis apologised to the Roma people on Sunday for the Roman Catholic Church’s “discrimination” against them as he wrapped up a visit to Romania, reports AFP.
Making up around 10 percent of Romania’s 20 million people, many Roma are marginalised and live in poverty and have suffered centuries of discrimination and insults.“I ask forgiveness - in the name of the Church and of the Lord - and I ask forgiveness of you. For all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you,” the pope said in a speech to the Roma community in the central town of Blaj.
“My heart, however, is heavy. It is weighed down by the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities. History tells us that Christians too, including Catholics, are not strangers to such evil,” he said.
“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!”
Earlier, the pontiff beatified seven Greco-Catholic bishops jailed and tortured during the Communist era.
“The new blessed ones suffered and sacrificed their lives, opposing a system of totalitarian and coercive ideology,” he told some 60,000 worshippers attending mass on a “Field of Liberty” in Blaj.
“These shepherds, martyrs of faith, garnered for and left the Romanian people a precious heritage which we can sum up in two words: freedom and mercy,” added Francis, while praising the “diversity of religious expression” in mainly Orthodox Romania.Regime officials detained the beatified bishops overnight on October 28, 1948, accusing them of “high treason” after they refused to convert to Orthodoxy.
The Greek-Catholic Church was outlawed under 1948-89 Communist rule.
The bishops died of maltreatment, some still in jail, others in confinement in an Orthodox monastery. They were then buried in secret—to this day the whereabouts of four of their graves is unknown.
The bars of the cells where they were held were symbolically incorporated into the throne built specially for the papal visit.
The bishops followed the Eastern Rite Catholic Church which emerged from an Orthodox schism at the end of the 17th century when the central region of Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
While retaining Orthodox practices they recognised Roman Catholic papal authority—unacceptable for the Communist regime which took power following World War II. Under a 1948 decree formally abolishing the Eastern Catholic churches, Greco-Catholics were forcibly obliged to return to the Orthodox fold.