Pilgrims' Progress: A "Marshall Plan" for the Holy Land

Project Encourages Trips to Keep Sites Afloat Economically

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ROME, FEB. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Church in Italy has launched a "Marshall Plan" of pilgrimages to help boost business for Holy Land sites in crisis since the outbreak of the intifada.



The main source of income of these institutions and those who work in them are pilgrims. For this reason, the 12th Theological-Pastoral Congress held this week by the Roman Work of Pilgrimages (ORP) invited all Italian dioceses to send spiritual expeditions to the land of Jesus.

"There are 230 dioceses in Italy," observed ORP administrator-delegate, Monsignor Liberio Andreatta.

"If each one succeeds in organizing a group, there would be pilgrims all year-round in the Holy Land," he said. "This would be a real 'Marshall Plan' of the Italian bishops themselves to save the Holy Land and its economy."

In fact, the plan of the Italian episcopal conference began in January. Nine groups have already gone abroad, the monsignor said.

"The Holy Land's door is open; we must not be afraid," he said during the congress that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the ORP, an institution of the Diocese of Rome.

Among the ORP programs is the "marathon of peace," which will be led April 23 by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, to join Jerusalem with Bethlehem.

The marathon, of some 15 kilometers (10 miles), will include Italian athletes. Its purpose is to say "no" to violence and to drew world attention to help Palestinians and Israelis return to the negotiating table.

The race will be held in the framework of the pilgrimage "Italian Athletes in the Holy Land: Ambassadors of Peace."

ORP sources told ZENIT that none of their pilgrims has ever been a victim of violence in the Holy Land.