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The Gratias Agit - Jan Masaryk Award

Tonio Casapinta, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Malta has been awarded the "Gratias Agit Award" for services to the Czech Republic.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mr Cyril Svoboda presented the award at a ceremony held at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague on the 19th June 2003.

Every year, the Czech Government presents the prestigious "Gratias Agit Award" to honour the work of individuals abroad - persons of Czech descent or those with strong ties to the Czech Republic, and to personalities whose work contributed to the improvement of others through altruistic, humanistic and cultural projects, while promoting Czech heritage.

Eleven laureates and three organisations hailing from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Malta were honoured for their achievements. For some individuals in their eighties, it was the acknowledgement of their life's work, no small achievement according to the Foreign Minister Svoboda. Amongst other words of praise, the Minister said "I would like to extend my thanks to all of you, because you have done a great job for the Czech Republic. This is perhaps a mission impossible, a never-ending mission, to say that the Czech Republic does exist, living in the very centre of Europe. You are Ambassadors, spread all over the globe, in real touch with people, and I am deeply convinced that everything you have done is something which is very beneficial. Thank you so much".

The scope and prestige of the Gratias Agit Award is evident from the qualities of the laureates themselves. To give an example of some of these individuals: Israeli Ruth Bondy, a Czech-born survivor of the Holocaust and a renowned translator of literature from Czech into Hebrew who turned eighty on the day. Sister Maria Goretti Quadros, an Indian missionary from the religious order "Queen of the Apostles" who together with Czech Caritas, has for many years promoted distant adoption of Indian children, enabling 6,000 Czech families to adopt. Jan Franicek who emigrated in 1949, running the Masaryk Institute in Toronto for 23 years.

The citation to Mr Casapinta's award reads:

For the propagation of the good name of the Czech Republic abroad, Tonio Casapinta has since 1993 acted as a most important partner for the Czech Republic in Malta and has effectively contributed to the enhancement of economic, commercial and political relations between the two countries.

During this period and through his own initiative, various cultural, commercial and philanthropic activities were successfully organised including the setting up of the Maltese-Czech Society and Czech Trade Overseas Office in Malta.

Various Czech Government Ministers, H.E. Cardinal Vlk and the Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, Ambassadors, Heads of Government Departments, including the Honorary Consul of Malta in Prague and Mrs Ernest Flamini attended the Award Ceremony.

Interviewed by Czech Television, Mr Casapinta expressed his great appreciation for the honour bestowed on him by the Czech Government and wished to share the Award with all those who had contributed to the excellent state of relations between Malta and the Czech Republic.

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