French priest prays for heart attack for Sarkozy


Several churchmen yesterday joined a chorus of criticism of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to expel dozens of Roma from France, with one priest praying for him to be divinely struck by a heart attack.

Fr Arthur Hervet of the church of St Martin Esquermes of Lille in northern France said he was turning to God because he did not believe those in power had any plans to help the Roma, except deport them.

“I pray, I beg your pardon, that Mr Sarkozy has a heart attack,” said the 71-year-old priest, saying a war was being waged on the Roma community. Fr Hervet said he would return his national order of merit medal to interior minister Brice Hortefeux as a sign of protest.

“I will like to tell Mr Hortefeux that I feel he does not know the situation, he does not know what these people are going through,” Fr Hervet said after Mass yesterday.

France on Thursday began sending back to Romania and Bulgaria, hundreds of Roma in a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration by Sarkozy.

Human rights groups and opposition parties have condemned the move and said the decision could further stigmatise the Roma community.

About 200 Roma people were repatriated on Thursday and Friday.

Christophe Dufour, the Archbishop of Aix and Arles, also criticised the crackdown and the dismantling of Roma camps.

Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni from the anti-immigrant Northern League party, applauded France’s decision and said Italy would seek approval from the European Commission to expel Roma living on benefits.

Without explicitly referring to the Roma situation in France or Italy, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking from his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, pleaded for good will and the acceptance of diversity.