Ceferino Giménez Malla

From VincentWiki
Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla

Ceferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936; variously spelled Zefferino Jimenez Malla), popularly "El Pelé" ("the Strong One" or "the Brave One") was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 4 May 1997. A member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, he was martyred on 9 August 1936 in Spain.

El Pelé was born to to Juan Jiménez and Josefa Malla, a Catholic Gypsy family. Sources differ about the place and date of his birth: in 1861 or 1865 and in Benavente de Segria, Lérida or in Alcolea de Cinca near Barbastro in Huesca/Aragon. The family supported itself by basket-making.[1]. He was baptized at Fraga.[2].

Ceferino's father chose his son's wife, in accordance with Roma tradition. Following his marriage in a traditional Roma ceremony to Teresa Castro[3], Ceferino worked as an animal trader, reputedly honest and also successful at resolving problems among Kalòs (Spanish nomads) and between Kalòs (Spanish nomads) and others.[4] In 1912 Ceferino and Teresa's marriage was blessed in church.[5] The couple did not have children, but after Ceferino's father abandoned the family, they cared for Ceferino's younger brothers and sisters[6] and later reared a niece.[7]

Although Ceferino, like many Roma of his age, never learned to read or write, he gathered children informally to teach them Bible stories and basic prayers. He became a Third Order Franciscan in 1926 and from 1931 regularly attended Nocturnal Eucharistic Devotion.[8]

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil in July 1936, Ceferino saw a priest being arrested and spoke up on the priest's behalf. The soldiers turned on him, found a rosary and a pocket knife in his possession, and imprisoned him at a local monastery, which had been taken over for use as a prison. There he was kept with 350 others. An anarchist who knew him told him that surrendering his rosary would almost certainly result in his being freed; he refused and, according to witnesses, prayed harder.[9]

On August 9 Ceferino and others were taken by truck to a cemetery. The driver later said that throughout the journey Ceferino continually called out, "Long live Jesus the King!" Ceferino, still holding his rosary, and the others were shot[10] and their bodies placed in a common grave. His body has never been recovered.[11]

Of the approximately 3,000 Rom who attended the beatification ceremony in Rome, some had traveled from as far away as Slovakia and Brazil [12]

For more detailed information, see Ceferino Jiménez Malla – "El Pelé" at ROMBASE


The two images at right were retrieved from Catequesis preparada para el encuentro de Gitanos, Conferencia Episcopal Española


  1. Rombase biographical page by Marta Miklušáková, retrieved on 6 August 2008
  2. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops biographical page, retrieved on 6 August 2008
  3. Rombase, ibid.
  4. Patron Saint of the Rom and Sinti, retrieved on 6 August 2008]
  5. USCCB, ibid.
  6. Rombase, ibid.
  7. USCCB, ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Rombase, Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. USCCB, Ibid.
  12. New York Times: Spanish Martyr Is First Gypsy Beatified by Catholic Church, May 5, 1997; retrieved 6 August 2008.