Speaking at a pastoral congress in Germany last week, Cardinal Martino deplored the prejudice and hatred being meted out to Romany and travelling people (often called "Gypsies") in many parts of Europe, and called on the churches to support them.
In an opening address to the gathering on pastoral support for travellers, he declared: "In response to the discrimination and indifference suffered by many of our brothers and sisters, the Church 'cannot remain indifferent to social realities,' and calls all men, especially Christians, to assume their own responsibilities ... in order to guarantee full respect of the dignity and rights of every human being."
The Cardinal, who is President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, spoke of the "precarious living conditions and limited opportunities for work and education" of many Gypsies.
This, he said, particularly made the younger generation feel marginalized, "with a loss of confidence in themselves and in their families, as well as in political, judicial, and educational institutions both on a public and private level,."
The Catholic Cardinal declared: "If individuals are expected to contribute to a just moral and social order in the community, with generosity and courage, all the more reason for governments and international and national organizations to protect the dignity and identity of every human being and of the entire human person."
Cardinal Martino recalled that in previous Congresses, attention had been given to "the principles of equality and working against discrimination. It became evident the need for a centralized service of the Church that would promote cooperation and dialogue with international and national organizations and with the various Christian churches, in order to eliminate any kind of discrimination and violence."
He regretted that in spite of the pleas made and the advice given, "while there is a considerable openness and interest for the Gypsy people on the part of international and national organizations, there is also a certain lack of flexibility and ambiguous attitudes on the part of governments that we find deplorable."
Concluding his speech, Cardinal Martino expressed his hope that this Congress may lead to "the commitment and will, on our part, to serve all people in charity and with love."