A Gypsy Saint?

Q. Has a Gypsy ever been canonized by the Catholic Church?


A. Ceferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936), popularly known as “El Pelé” (“the Strong One”), was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on May 4, 1997. He was born to a Catholic Roma (Gypsy) family in Spain and worked as an animal trader. Cerefino was a Third Order Franciscan and informal catechist of children.

During the Spanish Civil, Ceferino saw a priest being arrested and spoke up on the priest’s behalf. The soldiers seized him, found a rosary and pocket knife in his possession, and imprisoned him with 350 others at a local monastery being used as a prison. An anarchist who knew him told him that if he gave us his rosary, he would almost certainly be freed; he refused and only prayed harder.


On August 9, 1936, Ceferino and others were taken by truck to a cemetery. The driver later testified that on the way, Ceferino kept calling out, “Long live Jesus the King!” Ceferino, still holding his rosary, and the others were shot and their bodies dumped in a common grave. His body has never been recovered.