Expedition to North Pole Gets Papal Send-off

Adventurers Hope to Reach Goal by Easter

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The North Pole is also the object of pilgrimages, where one can admire the intense reflection of God´s beauty, the Holy Father said this morning, when he received a group of explorers who hope to be on top of the world by Easter.



The expedition is a sign of man´s desire to explore "the wonderful book of creation," John Paul II told the 50 members of the expedition.

On Easter Sunday, amid subzero temperatures, the group hopes to place a cross on the spot marking the North Pole.

The pilgrims hoped the Pope would bless the cross, and they were not disappointed. In fact, the Holy Father, a longtime mountain hiker, spent several minutes talking to them about preparations for the expedition.

The group will be led by Dodo Perri, an expert in explorations on ice, and dog-sled races. They will take the path to the North Pole followed on horseback at the turn of last century by young Italian Luigi Amedeo di Savoia, who after seeing several of his companions die, was forced to return when he reached north latitude 86 degrees 34 minutes.

Mountain climber Father Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI, was meant to go on that expedition, but had to change his plans at the last minute.

The North Pole was conquered seven years later, by Norwegian explorer Roald E. Amundsen.

John Paul II referred to di Savoia´s failed expedition. "In a certain sense, you hope to complete the difficult expedition of 1900 and emulate those men who hoped to reach goals in difficult situations that until then man had not touched," he said.

The Bishop of Rome told the adventurers that this would certainly be an opportunity to admire nature´s prodigies. "In planting the tree of the cross and renewing the eucharistic sacrifice at the ends of the earth, you hope to remind us that humanity finds its true dimension only when it is capable of fixing its eyes on Christ," the Pope concluded.