Vatican police clash with gipsies on steps of basilica

Vatican police clash with gipsies on steps of basilica

Vatican police clashed with the Roma gipsies who had gathered at one of Rome's four papal basilicas on Saturday night in protest at efforts to stop dozens from the community participating in the Easter vigil.

Amid cries of "shame, shame" from local and foreign pilgrims, the gipsies were blocked from entering St Paul's Outside the Walls. They had sought refuge in the grounds after the city's illegal gipsy camps were dismantled.

"If they are here they need help," said a pilgrim queuing to join prayers. "Shame! Let them go in."

Police had offered the gipsies payments of €1,000 (£880)– €500 from Rome city council and €500 from the Roman Catholic charity Caritas – to leave the area in front of the church.

About 150 Roma gipsies, including women and babies, had pitched tents in front of the basilica on Good Friday after they were forced out of illegal camps.

They were protesting over city plans to send women and children – not men – to...
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