THE POPE has joined criticism of France’s repatriation of gypsies, saying Jesus acted to bring together "men from every nation and every language".
Speaking in French to pilgrims at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI called for a rethink on the repatriations.
He said: "The scriptures tell us all men are called to salvation. It is also an invitation to accept human diversity, to follow Jesus."
France flew more than 200 gypsies back to Romania and Bulgaria at the end of last week, with each adult getting a €300 handout and €100 for each child.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has said nearly 850 gypsies will have been repatriated by the end of this month.
The repatriations have been fiercely attacked by human rights groups, church leaders and opposition politicians.
One Lille priest has written to Mr Hortefeux to return his Medal of Merit and said he was praying for divine intervention and for President Sarkozy to have a heart attack. He later apologised for the remark.
Elsewhere, the archbishop of Aix and Arles called on all people to be treated with dignity, as enshrined in French law.
Monseigneur Christophe Dufour said he had seen a gypsy camp being broken up and said it was inacceptable that the residents were treated as being "inferior people".
The European Commission has said it is keeping an eye on events, saying France must respect fellow-Europeans’ rights to free movement.
Photo: Tadeusz Górny. Licensed under Creative Commons.