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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 110 (Suppl.), August 2009



Fr. Francisco Sales Diniz, O.F.M.

National Director


Situation in Portugal*


1. The Portuguese young Gypsies

1.1 Situation in the European  conjuncture

1.2 Social policies

1.3 Associativism

2. Intervention of the Portuguese young Gypsies in the various forms of religiosity and in the ethics of the cultural way of being

2.1 Evolution of the religious and ethical practices

2.2 Ecumenism

1. The Portuguese young Gypsies

1.1  Situation in the European  conjuncture

In Portugal, like in the other European countries, the youngsters of the Gypsy communities are subject to the tensions that are consequence of the socio-economic evolution of the majoritarian societies in which they live.

The European conjuncture has been evolving  through the remarkable increase of the competitiveness both at the European and at the global levels.

 The evolution of the social welfare not always has been accompanied by the virtues of the citizenship: on the contrary, sometimes it generated an acute egocentrism that results in the rejection of the less successful tiers of the society.

1.2  Social policies

The EU social cohesion policy, the so called “welfare state”, however distant its results are from its objectives, had, without any doubt, the consequence of giving survival tools to the communities that live in the margin of the society, as are the majority of the Portuguese Gypsy communities. Among other policies, the Social Inclusion Income (RSI) resulted in a remarkable increase of schooling among young Gypsies and as a consequence increased their potential for employment.

On the other hand, as a result of two to three decades of housing policies, many young Gypsies abandoned the misery inherent to dwelling in slums.

1.3  Associativism

The way Portuguese young Gypsies have grasped the opportunity of forming Gypsy associations has been remarkable, thus pooling efforts towards their representativeness and inclusion in the society. Some of these associations and recently the Federation of the Portuguese Gypsy Associations (FECALP-Federação Calhim Portuguesa) have made considerable progress towards the participation of male and female Gypsies in projects of their interest, in assuming positions at civic events, finally in the process of assuming their destiny in their own hands and in strengthening their leadership when they are called upon intervening in the society and in assuming their civic representativity. 

2.  Intervention of the Portuguese young Gypsies in the various forms of religiosity and in the ethics of the cultural way of being

Evolution of the religious and ethical practices

As it is known, Gypsies adapted themselves to the religious forms of practice that they encountered in the countries where they settled. So did the Portuguese Gypsies. However, as the majority of the institutions of the Catholic Church tend to follow the type of the less inclusive reactions of the society at large – that was the reason for the creation by the Holy See of specific structures for Pastoral care –, so in Portugal the Gypsies adhered to the Catholicism, however at some distance, due to the cultural and social differences.

In the last decades, also in Portugal the phenomenon of “Gypsyization” of some Christian confessions was felt. The evangelical Gypsy churches experienced a considerable expansion; the young Gypsies contributed quite significantly for it. It is the youngsters who, usually contribute more for the creation and expansion of the Gypsy evangelical churches, doing so with special conviction.

The evangelical churches have contributed quite significantly for the decrease of alcoholism, of the consumption of drugs and of the use of violence.

Thus, the Portuguese young Gypsies are, nowadays, more involved in the practice of the Christian religious life than their elders were.

2.2  Ecumenism

In the Catholic Church, a lack of a clear and specific orientation is felt regarding the forms of relating herself with the Gypsy evangelical churches. Although the practice is one of total openness on the part of the Catholic Church, regarding the cooperation and friendship with the members of those churches, frequently their attitudes towards the Catholic Church are reserved.

Should new and more structured forms of relating with those churches not be tried for a mutual enrichment?


* This exposition was made with the contribution of the Lisbon Diocesan Secretariat of the Pastoral Care of the Gypsies.