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Czech Republic: Hundreds of Romani people will go on pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček

13.9.2016 19:56
The Romani Pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček near Olomouc. (PHOTO:  Caritas Olomouc)
The Romani Pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček near Olomouc. (PHOTO: Caritas Olomouc)

This coming Saturday, hundreds of Romani people from all over the Czech Republic and Slovakia will make their traditional pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček near the city of Olomouc. Pilgrims will set out for the Basilica from the nearby village of Samotiška and will attend a mass officiated by a Romani priest at Svatý Kopeček as well as other planned events.

Eva Štefková, spokesperson for the Charita organization in Olomouc, told the Czech News Agency today that the theme of the pilgrimage will be "Journey to Ourselves", which indicates not just traveling to meet family members and loved ones, but also traveling to meet God. The Romani pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček has years of tradition behind it.

The aim of the pilgrimage, according to organizers, is an effort to bring Romani people from all over the country together to present their culture and contribute thereby to better relations between the majority society and the Romani minority. The number of pilgrims has increased in recent years, with roughly 600 Romani people participating last year.

"We don't just invite all Romani people to the pilgrimage, but also those who are interested in Romani culture or who want to get to know more about Romani customs and traditions," Petr Macek, Deputy Director of Charita Olomouc, told the Czech News Agency. The pilgrims will set out on their journey along the road to Svatý Kopeček this Saturday at 10:00, with the mass at the Basilica of the Virgin Mary's Visitation (Navštívení Panny Marie) planned for one hour later.

The mass will be officiated by the first Roman Catholic priest from the Romani community in the Czech Republic, Vojtěch Vágai. "I see the significance of the pilgrimage as being that it brings people together, and not just through Romani culture. Romani people are very emotional and enjoy experiencing things. People always speak to me after the mass and ask me to pray with them. That's an experience I don't ordinarily have," Father Vágai told the Czech News Agency last year.

The "Journey to Ourselves" theme will be reflected in the sermon, and part of the religious service will be a small theater performance of the story of The Prodigal Son by the Salesian Children's Ensemble from Ostrava. Organizers say that the content of the pilgrimage is meant to correspond to the needs faced by the Romani community today.

"The procession will be led by a pilgrim who will take up the burdens at the various Stations of the Cross that today's Romani children and youth are grappling with," said Adéla Adámková, head of the Charita-Olomouc's Khamoro Center for Ethnic Minorities. The Romani pilgrimage is attended annually by entire Romani families and is an opportunity for many of them to gather together in the same place.

This is the eighteenth year that Charita-Olomouc has organized this unique cultural and spiritual event. The pilgrimage is the only event of its kind in the Czech Republic with such a long tradition. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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