The Holy See
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Dispensers of Joy

The circus owes its name to the circular form of its stage. The first modern circus was opened in 1770 by Philip Astley in London. It was a combination of riding performances, and feats of strength and agility, with acts by clowns - a typical characteristic of Elizabethan theatre which Astley transplanted to the arena. As a fundamental visual spectacle, free of linguistic barriers, the circus easily spread all over the world. The first circus companies embarked on long international tours taking circus art to the United States of America, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Russia and as far as South Africa.

As time passed the circus underwent evolution and fundamental changes. The greatest innovation in the circus world took place in Russia when in 1919 the circus was nationalized by Lenin and when later, in 1972, the State University of Circus and Variety Arts was founded, better known as Moscow Circus School.

In 1975 Prince Rainier II of Monte Carlo, founded the International Circus Festival with important prizes, Clown d'Or and Clown d' Argent, which for the circus world have the same value as the Oscar for the cinema.
For circus people, both artists and workers, theirs is not only a profession: it is an authentic vocation, handed down from generation to generation, from father to son.

Masters of entertainment

The ability and creativity of man, the spectacle with its lights and colors, singular contact with animals, offer moments of emotion and surprise, and are a source of entertainment for society and in particular for the whole family. The world of the circus and fairs is one which allows man of a cold technological culture to rediscover a smile, happiness, serenity. In this atmosphere man lets himself be enchanted by what is beautiful and good, opening himself to the values and messages of peace, goodness, truth which are communicated to him by means of the language of games, dances and artistic performances .

Circus and entertainment park people, fair people and street artists such as painters, minstrels, traveling musicians, puppet showmen, etc., are true "artisans of festivities" authentic dispensers of joy, wonder and amazement. "They open for their audiences a place of celebration and friendship, they bring a smile to the face of a child, and illuminate for a moment the desperate eyes of a person who is alone; through spectacle and amusement, they render people nearer to each other" (John Paul II, 17,12 1993).

An itinerant and temporary life

The dynamic life of people of the circus, fairs and amusement parks, marked by considerable provisionality, and, for the first two categories, by constant uprooting from familiar environment and people, calls for great sacrifices. This itinerant life does not facilitate the scholastic, professional or religious formation of their children, and the parents know how much the new generations need to be better prepared to guarantee their future. The family, therefore, is the place where values are transmitted, the first school of life for the children.

Often the impact with the resident population causes various problems, for example, the growing difficulty to find areas and increasing rates for occupying public land. The reaction of users is not always positive: demonstrations of appreciation and admiration for actors and entertainment alternate at times with attitudes of opposition and diffidence.

The role of the Church

The people of the circus and entertainment, contrary to popular impressions, are profoundly religious and they look to the Church for their spiritual needs. For centuries their profession accompanied Christian festivals, as is demonstrated by the fact that most of their activity takes place near the church, on the occasion of religious holidays.

Despite the presence of circus and fair people in Catholic environments, the hours of their work and singular mobility withdraw them from the ordinary activity of parish priests and their contact with the parish, for motives of a pastoral nature, often remains sporadic and not easily inserted in the plan for Christian formation and systematic catechesis. Therefore it is necessary to formulate a pastoral plan which takes their needs into account.

Pastoral care for circus and fair people can find significant and strong stimulus from the family. Their families, in fact, in the sacramental rhythms that involve them - from the celebration of Baptism, to First Communion and Confirmation of the children to Marriage - can be the first and elementary place for that journey of faith and evangelization of which the ecclesial community of the parish must be the bearer, through the chaplain.
In this "domestic Church" and through it, the chaplain plays his role of "ministry of presence" devoted to interpersonal relationships. There are then moments reserved for the entire community such and Eucharistic Celebrations under the circus tent and on particular occasions and the administration of the Sacraments.

It is the task of the local Church to take the opportunity of a feast day to transmit to circus and fair people the Christian message and at the same time to educate the Christian community to accept them without prejudice, with confidence and with esteem for the human and Christian qualities of which they are the bearers.