Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla

Ceferino Giménez Malla

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Ceferino Giménez Malla (also known as El Pelé, "the Strong One", or "the Brave One"; August 26, 1861 — August 8, 1936) was a Spanish Gypsy, a Roman Catholic catechist and activist for Spanish Romani causes, considered the patron saint of Romani people in Roman Catholicism. A victim of the Spanish Republican militias during the Civil War, Ceferino Giménez Malla was beatified on May 4, 1997; May 4 is also his feast day.


Giménez Malla was born in Fraga, Huesca Province, of a Romani family. His father was a cattle-trader, and, initially, Ceferino himself practiced the trade: for forty years, he lived as a nomad. He was married since his teen years, but did not father any children. In 1912, Giménez Malla married his wife Teresa in a Catholic ceremony, and bought a house in the Huescan town of Barbastro. They also adopted Teresa's niece Pepita, who was an orphan: Teresa died in 1922, and Pepita has still had descendants living in Spain during the early 2000s.

Ceferino was not literate, but he visited church and knew much about his faith and about the Bible. He taught Christianity to both Romani and ethnic Spanish children. After his wife had died, Giménez Malla began a career as a catechist under the guidance of a priest-teacher, Don Nicholas Santos de Otto.

Malla also resolved disputes between Romani and Spanish people. According to Romani tradition, he also used to feed poor children. In 1926, he became a member of the Franciscan Third order, and, five years later, he took part in "Night Adoration".

During the Spanish Civil War, Giménez Malla tried to defend a Catholic priest from Republican soldiers. They both were arrested and then shot dead with other priests and believers. A Romani legend has it that the soldiers asked him if he had weapons, and that he answered: "Yes, and here it is", while displaying his rosary. He reportedly died holding the rosary in his hands, and shouting: "Long live Christ the King!". His body was never found.

Pope John Paul II said of Giménez Malla: "His life shows how Christ is present in the various peoples and races, and that all are called to holiness which is attained by keeping his commandments and remaining in his love (John 15:11)".