Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities are among the most disadvantaged groups in the United Kingdom. A significant number are Catholic. They are welcomed into some parishes and schools but receive a cool reception in others. Cultural differences and prejudices lead to misunderstandings and tensions in local communities and specific problems arise in relation to local authorities and public services (health, schools, etc).
At present, the ministry to Traveller and Gypsy People in the Catholic community is carried out by individual priests, religious and lay people working in dioceses and through Catholic agencies.
Over the past ten years, the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) has been working with others to develop a mutual support network for those involved in this ministry. The Network currently includes more than 50 members from a number of dioceses and agencies. They are involved in catechetical work, sacramental preparation, pastoral work, building relations with local communities and offering services through Catholic Agencies. The Network also includes some interested individuals and representatives from secular organisations The Network meets three or four times a year and occasionally publishes a newsletter – Pilgrim Catholic.
In addition to supporting those working directly with GRT communities, CARJ has at times challenged government policy on their behalf.
CARJ attempts, in all its work, to have a special concern for the most disadvantaged – to stand alongside them and act as advocates on their behalf. GRT communities are clearly among the most disadvantaged and CARJ will make it a continuing priority to stand alongside these communities and to support Catholics and others who work directly with them.