Update from the National Catholic Chaplain for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to restrict the number of visits that I am able to make to families living on sites but one of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic has been the way in which modern technology has been used in order to communicate important messages to a wider audience.
In particular there have been two topics which I have been asked to be involved in over the last few months. Recently I recorded a short video to encourage Gypsies, Roma and Travellers to complete the National Census which takes place every 10 years and which was held on the 21st of March.
The 2011 National Census marked the first time that “Irish Traveller” had been recorded as a separate ethnic identity but sadly, many Travellers are still reluctant to complete the census forms because of lingering suspicions about how the authorities will use their personal information. As a result, it means that the official estimate of how many Gypsies, Roma and Travellers there are in England and Wales is often far lower than the actual size of these communities.
This year the Census organisers have made a real effort to reach out to communities which in the past have been under represented and I was delighted to play my part in helping make Traveller voices heard through the Census.
I was also approached by an NHS Trust in Sussex to be involved in a video they are making to promote the take up of Covid-19 vaccinations amongst GRT communities. Similar to the suspicions around the Census, there are misgivings that some Travellers have about the Covid vaccines, both around the potential side effects of having the vaccine and ethical questions around how the vaccines have been developed.
Thankfully Pope Francis has given us a clear direction by being prepared to have the vaccine himself and the Church has also made it clear that all of the vaccines which have currently been approved can be received by Catholics in good conscience.
Having witnessed at first hand the devastating effect that the pandemic has had on so many individuals and families, I would ask you to join with me in praying that all of these efforts bear fruit and help to keep all members of our society safe and well.