Vatican prelate calls for new regulations on Roma Gypsies

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A Vatican prelate on Friday proposed the adoption of new regulations on the presence of Roma gypsies in Europe after France repatriated hundreds in a controversial crackdown last week.

"Roma make up the most important European minority, with more than 12 million people, of which five million are children," said Agostino Marchetto, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, a Vatican body.

"I wonder whether we shouldn't create special norms -- taking into account their traditions and culture -- to regulate their presence in European countries," Marchetto told the MISNA missionary news agency.

Marchetto also encouraged governments "not to ride the wave of popular discontent... since people's intolerance often is caused by cultural diversity."

Marchetto had already criticised France's crackdown last week, saying that the expulsions were against European norms.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI asked French pilgrims visiting him at his summer residence to welcome people of all origins.

France launched the country-wide crackdown on Roma earlier this month after a group of Gypsies allegedly attacked a police station.

The French government said it sent back 283 Roma Thursday, bringing the total number of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma deported so far this year to 8,313, up from 7,875 expelled throughout last year.

© 2010 AFP

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