Czech Republic: Romani faithful gather for traditional pilgrimage
Roughly 400 Romani people from all over the Czech Republic and Slovakia gathered yesterday at Svatý Kopeček near Olomouc for their traditional pilgrimage. The event is organized by the Charita NGO in Olomouc and has a long tradition.
This is the eighteenth year that Romani believers have traveled to this favorite Moravian pilgrimage site. Compared to last year, attendance was lower.
Some pilgrims were apparently deterred by the rain. Those who attended walked from the village of Samotiška to the Basilica at Svatý Kopeček.
They were welcomed by a member of the Romani community who is also a Roman Catholic priest, Vojtěch Vágai, who administered Holy Mass. "This is an important element of the pilgrimage because it connects us as one with our God. The theme of today's pilgrimage is 'Journey to Ourselves', to one another and to our God," the priest said.
Vágai believes that to embark upon such a journey is also a display of the mercy that Pope Francis announced would be this year's theme for the Catholic Church. "It is important for Romani people especially to be aware that human beings are dignified in the eyes of God. That dignity should mean that people are able to respect each other. We should do our best to show mercy to those we have harmed, whose dignity we have defiled, by raising them up again and letting them know that we are all God's children," he said.
The priest said he believes that while Romani people, like members of the majority society, are aware of faith, only a minority are practicing Catholics. Pilgrim Marie Kaskovová of Olomouc said it was her 15th time participating in the pilgrimage.
"There are many believers among the older generation, but this is disappearing a bit among the younger generation. However, I think each of us has some of the spirit inside us," Kaskovová said.
Adéla Adámková, head of the Khamoro Center for Ethnic Minorities at Charita in Olomouc, pointed out that the pilgrimage has a social aspect as well. "The purpose of the pilgrimage is mainly for Romani people from all over the Czech Republic and Slovakia to gather, for families to meet and spend an entire day together. The morning is sacred, they can give all their anxieties to God, and the afternoon is glitzy, with concerts and entertainment," she said.
Last year roughly 600 Roman pilgrims attended the event with the aim of presenting Romani culture so as to contribute to good relations between the majority society and the Romani minority. Many Romani people attend the event regularly every year, including parents with children ranging from newborns to teenagers.
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