Stanislaw Opocki, national priest of Roma in Poland, will build the first chapel for the Roma community in the country. The little church will be located in Lososina Gorna, 90 kilometers from Krakow, in southern Malopolskie Voivodeship, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.The grand opening is planned for September 2007, during the yearly pilgrimage of Roma to God?s Painful Mother Basilica in Limanowa in southern Poland. ?
It was in 1997, 10 years ago, that I first thought about building the chapel. I went with Polish Roma to the Vatican to participate in Pope John Paul II?s beatification of the first Roma — Ceferino Jimenez Malla,? recollected the priest. Beatification is an act of the Roman Catholic Church, officially stating that a deceased person had lived a holy life. It is usually the first step toward sainthood.
Ceferino Jimenez Malla, also known as El Pele, was a Spanish Gypsy martyred during that country?s civil war. He was declared both ?as a man and a Christian to have been admirable for his seriousness and the wisdom of his life.? His beatification was the first given to a Roma.
Ceferino Jimenez Malla was known for helping the poor. Although he was nearly illiterate, his natural intelligence was enough to bring him to prominence. At a time when the Republican militia was hunting down priests, Pele was arrested for harboring a young cleric.
He was offered his freedom, if he would refrain from openly professing his faith and get rid of his rosary. He refused and was shot by a firing squad. Malla was martyred for his faith in August 1936 at the age of 75.
?In the years following Malla?s beatification,? continues Opocki, ?I started to collect gifts for the chapel?s construction and endowment. I was surprised by people?s generosity. The majority of people who helped were of non-Roma origins.?
The chapel will be part of the cultural-religious center of Roma in Lososina Gorna. A Roma museum is also planned according to the newspaper. The clergyman has collected many exhibits already, but he searches continuously for new ones. Photos from the Roma?s world pilgrimages and items associated with their lifestyle will be on exhibit in the museum. A special location will be prepared for a library and audiovisual hall.
?Pope John Paul II said it is not enough to tolerate the Roma; it is necessary to treat them like brothers,? said Opocki.
However, it has been commented that, to avoid further segregation, Polish and Roma worshipers should pray within the same temples.
The Roma in Poland are mainly members of the Catholic Church, but there are some members of the Pentecostal Church and Jehovah?s Witnesses. Roma usually adopted the dominant religion of the host country, while preserving aspects of their particular belief systems, indigenous religion and worship. The Roma religion has a highly developed sense of morality, taboos and the supernatural.
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