for Huffington Post on June 16, 2011
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI listened to Gypsies recount their way of life at a first-ever papal audience for them at the Vatican on Saturday, decried their persecution by the Nazis during World War II and called on Europe to help end centuries of rejection for the Roma people.
About 2,000 Catholic Gypsies gathered in the Vatican's auditorium to hear Benedict speak.
"Your history is complex, and, in some periods, painful," Benedict said. "You are a people who over the past centuries never held nationalistic ideologies, never aspired to possess a land or dominate other peoples. You have remained without a homeland and have ideally considered the entire (European) continent as your home."
He lamented that for centuries they have known "the bitter taste of not being welcome."
Benedict told how during his pilgrimage to Poland in 2006 he prayed before a plaque at the Auschwitz marking the "barbaric" killing of thousands of Gypsies in Nazi death camps – "a drama that is still barely recognized and of which it is difficult to measure its proportions."
"The European conscience cannot forget such sorrow," the pope said. "Never again may your people be the object of oppression, rejection and disparagement," the pope said.
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/12/pope-gypsies_n_875608.html