By Jonathan Luxmoore
Religion News Service
WARSAW (RNS/ENInews) A Catholic bishop in Romania has deplored the mass expulsion of Roma from France, and he urged European governments to do more to integrate the continent's Gypsy minorities.
"There are substantial Roma communities in all European countries, not just Romania and Bulgaria," said Virgil Bercea, the Greek Catholic bishop of Oradea. "When the French drive them out, all they do is return to visit their families and then travel somewhere else, whether back to France, or on to Italy, Spain or Germany."
The bishop, whose church combines the Eastern Orthodox rite with loyalty to Rome, spoke as European Union leaders gathered for a Thursday (Sept. 16) summit in Brussels, during which French President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected comparisons to mass deportations by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Bercea said his church had not formally "taken a position" on the deportations, but is working with other groups to help Roma inhabitants of Romania.
Roma made up 2.4 percent of Romania's population of 22 million in a 2002 official census, but many reports say they are more numerous.
"Roma clearly face difficulties in France. There are no Gypsy camps, by comparison, in Germany and Austria, and no particular social problems associated with them," Bishop Bercea told ENInews. "We think it's more important to work with Gypsies than simply to send them back."
At least 1,000 mostly Romanian and Bulgarian Roma have been expelled since early August from unauthorized camps in France, home to a permanent Gypsy population of some 400,000.
The August expulsions are the latest involving Roma, 10,000 of whom were deported from France in 2009. Opinion polls show the move was supported by two-thirds of French citizens.