All Aboard the Caritas Express

Aid Agency Plans Train Trip From Vatican to Orvieto

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Caritas Express will bring passengers from Vatican City to Orvieto on May 21, marking the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Caritas Internationalis.

The railroad border between Italy and the Vatican will be opened for this unique trip, which aims to raise public awareness of the aid agency's work and collect funds for its humanitarian projects.

The journey will end in Orvieto, famous for the Corporal of Bolsena -- a Eucharistic miracle housed in the Duomo cathedral -- where Caritas' 19th General Assembly will be held from May 22-27.

The five-car train will return in the evening on the same day to Rome's central Termini Station.

The historic trip is expected to gain public attention worldwide due to its humanitarian goals and its novelty.

Steam and electric historic locomotives will be used, alternating in pulling historic wagons: one of first class, two of second, one presidential and another of service, making a total of five railcars.

Diplomats, politicians and individuals donating money for their tickets will travel on the train.

Vatican station

Vatican City has a train station within its walls, a few yards from St. Peter's Basilica, and three branch lines that are rarely used.

The Lateran Treaty signed in 1929 recognized the sovereignty of Vatican City. In article 6 the treaty stated that Italy should build a railroad station within the Vatican.

Inaugurated in 1934, the Vatican's railroad line is connected with the Tyrrhenian line near the Roman station of St. Peter and is the shortest international railroad line in the world, measuring some 2,828 feet (862 meters).

On seeing it being built, Pius IX described it as "the most beautiful station of the world," though he never traveled on the line and did not get to see the train he had helped establish.

The station's decoration includes eight marble columns sculpted from the same block.

John XXIII was the first Pontiff to use the line to travel to Assisi in 1962 in the Italian presidential train. The car he used will be part of the Caritas Express.

John Paul II traveled on it on two occasions: in 1979 and in 2002.

Taking part in the project are the government of Vatican City and the Italian railroad Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), which is making staff and trains available for free to collect funds.

In fact, the railroad company collaborates in other ways with Caritas, in particular with a home for indigents in the area of Rome's central station.

Tim Fisher, the Australian ambassador to the Vatican, former director of a railroad company and a train connoisseur, contributed personally to promote the Caritas Express project.