When Pope John Paul II beatified
Ceferino Giménez Malla,
4,000 Gypsies crowded St.
Peter’s Square. Known as “El Pelé,”
Blessed Ceferino is the first Gypsy to be
“It is necessary to overcome ancient
prejudices that lead you to suffer forms
of discrimination and at times undesirable
marginalization of the Gypsy
population,” the pope said, referring
to the persecutions Gypsies have suffered,
including imprisonment and
death during the Holocaust. In March
2000, the pope asked God’s forgiveness
for the sins committed against Gypsies
by the Church.
El Pelé was a reputable horse trader
and a city councilman in Barbastro,
Spain. He treated both friends and
strangers with respect, never using
sharp words, even when he disagreed
with people. Ceferino’s friends included
lawyers, politicians, doctors and other
important men in town. The local
bishop often asked him for advice.
Ceferino was often enlisted to resolve
conflicts among Gypsies, and he
worked to improve relations between
Gypsies and non-Gypsies. He treated
children with respect, often bringing
Gypsy and Spanish children together.
Ceferino and his Gypsy wife, Teresa
Giménez Castro, had no children, but
they adopted a niece and raised her in
the faith. They also cared for Ceferino’s
siblings after his mother died, since his
father had abandoned the family.
Killed for His Faith
Ceferino was a Catholic convert who
gave generously to the poor and developed
a reputation for holiness. When
people were around him, they were on
their best behavior.
In July 1936, during the early days of
the Spanish Civil War, the 75-year-old
Ceferino was arrested for protesting
the arrest of a priest. He angered his
guards by reciting the Rosary. Offered
freedom if he would stop, he refused.
Ceferino was shot on August 2, 1936
(some accounts say August 8) with his
rosary in hand, crying, “Long live
Christ the King.”
Ceferino was killed because he was
Catholic and is one of 219 martyrs the
Church has recognized from the Spanish
Civil War. Pope John Paul II said
that this Gypsy martyr “knew how to
sow peace and solidarity among his
own,” referring to his gift as a mediator.
August 26, 1861
Born in Catalonia, Spain
Baptized a Roman Catholic
Had his marriage to Teresa Giménez Castro
recognized in the Church, widowed in 1922
August 2, 1936
Martyred in Barbastro, Spain
May 4, 1997
Beatified by Pope John Paul II
It’s easy to understand why Gypsies admire
Blessed Ceferino. But the rest of us
can also learn much from his example.
He reminds us not to typecast people:
Ceferino was known as an “honest
Gypsy,” two words that many people
wrongly consider contradictory. He
earned a reputation for being wise, even
though he was illiterate. In our times,
wisdom is often associated with education.
Sometimes, we fail to respect
self-taught people with lots of common
Blessed Ceferino was a peacemaker.
But he didn’t compromise his faith:
When he was challenged to stop praying
the Rosary or die, he refused to
He sets an example of getting along
with others, even when we disagree.
But he also shows us that there are
times when we must express our beliefs
and accept the consequences.
Next: Peter To Rot