Mourners pay last respects to the first Czech Romani spiritual member of the Catholic Church
He died at the young age of 52 as a result of a brain injury.
A requiem mass was held in remembrance of Vagai in St Vitus church in Cesky Krumlov, the place where he undertook his religious duties.
He was originally born in Slovakia but moved to Cesky Krumlov during his youth. After graduating from trade school he worked in various capacities, including a period of time as a porter. Vagai was initially an acolyte but instead of going on to become a priest as was expected, he got married after his army service, thus appearing to restrict his progression in the religious world.
However, in 1965 the Vatican Council decided that in countries where there is a shortage of clergymen, a married man can receive ordination as a deacon.
As such, after the fall of Communism at the end of the 80s in the then Czechoslovakia, in 1993 Vagai became a deacon in the Czech Roman Catholic Church.
His responsibilities included holding services, baptisms, weddings and funerals. In addition, he was a keen advocate for the integration of Roma into society, encouraging the people of the Czech Republic to be accepting of ‘otherness.’
In particular, the late deacon worked towards the development of social cohesion between Romani and Czech children, organizing youth summer camps in Bohemia where one third of the individuals were Roma.
Vagai’s eldest son, who is following in his father’s footsteps and is also a deacon, said that his father was keen to be a ‘model example for Romanies’ to show that they can be ‘educated, honest and hardworking and capable of working in higher posts.’
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