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History of the John Paul II Peace Marathon
01-27-13

Article Source: Israel Ministry of Tourism, reprinted with permission

Six years ago, during the period of the "Intifada" when tensions reduced the number of overseas visitors to Israel to its lowest level, Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, Director General of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the pilgrimage organizer attached to the Vatican, requested the Minister of Tourism to help realize a special Jerusalem-Bethlehem Marathon in which Israelis, Italians and Palestinians would participate with the set objective to encourage peace in the region and encourage Catholic pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  The initiative originally seemed challenging at best.  No one could imagine then that Palestinian runners would be able to run alongside Israelis and Italians, particularly considering the process of crossing between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. 

 

A task force to plan the Marathon was created under the sponsorship of the Israel Ministry of Tourism including the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Olympic Committee, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, and Palestinian and Israeli representatives of private sport organizations and private travel trade.  As a result, the first Jerusalem-Bethlehem Marathon set out from the Notre Dame Hotel in April, 2004.  Among the prestigious guests were Cardinal Ruini; former Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, Monsignor Pietro Sambi; leading representatives of the Italian Sports Center; the Chairmen of both the Israeli and Italian Olympic Organizations as well as representatives of the Ministry of Tourism.  Approximately 300 runners participated in this first run to Bethlehem and were led by an Italian sportsman carrying a torch blessed by the Pope.  In Bethlehem, the Italian and Palestinian runners were welcomed by Palestinian sport authorities. 

 

 

 

Cardinal Ruini blesses the runners at the onset of the first Marathon from Jerusalem

 together with Monsignor Sambi

 

 

The following year, the Marathon reversed direction starting in Bethlehem and closing at the Dormition Abbey Church.  Close to the time of the second Marathon, His Holiness John Paul II passed away and the Marathon organizers decided that the Marathon would be named in his memory.  A special medallion with his name and image engraved upon it was prepared for the participants.

 

 

Israeli, Palestinian and Italian runners.  Can you see the difference?

 

 

During the third year, a special volleyball event was held in addition to the Marathon with the participation of a mixed Palestinian-Israeli team opposite a former world champion Italian team.  (By the way, the Israeli-Palestinian team won!)

 

IN 2007 the Marathon was a truly multi - national event with sportsmen from Italy, including clergy and soccer players of the Vatican team, and 25 runners from 12 different countries. The international participants were greeted by the Apostolic Delegate to The Holy Land H.E. Antonio Franco, as well as Palestinian dignitaries and the Palestinian runners ran the 10 km. course, from the Nativity Church in Bethlehem via Rachel's Tomb to the Southern Wall Archeological Garden and the Huldah Steps in the Old City of Jerusalem.  http://www.archpark.org.il/about.shtml   In the course of the Marathon, the Italian sportsmen carried the torch that received the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

 

 

In a telegram sent by the Holy See State Secretary, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,  Pope Benedict XVI blessed the Marathon participants:

 

"ON THE OCCASION OF THE 4TH PILGRIMAGE-MARATHON FROM BETHLEHEM TO JERUSALEM IN WHICH PILGRIMS AND ATHLETES, ITALIANS, ISRAELIANS, PALESTINIANS, AND REPRESENTATIVES OF OTHER NATIONALITIES PARTICIPATE, THE HOLY FATHER EXPRESSES VIVID APPRECIATION FOR THIS INITIATIVE THAT EXALTS THE VALUE OF SPORTS AT THE SERVICE OF PEACE AND HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF JOINT PRAYER IN ORDER TO CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS GREATER UNDERSTANDING AMONGST PEOPLES AND THE BUILDING OF A GLOBAL COMMUNITY INSPIRED BY FAITH IN GOD AND THE RESPECT OF EVERY HUMAN LIFE AND THE SEARCH FOR THE COMMON GOOD AND MUTUAL LOVE."

Cardinal Bertone also added:

 

"HIS HOLINESS, WHILE WISHING THE SUCCESS OF THE INTERESTING MANIFESTATION, THIS YEAR DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE LATE BELOVED JOHN PAUL II, ALSO DESIRES THAT IT PROMOTES FRUITFUL DIALOGUE BETWEEN CULTURES AND DIFFERENT RELIGIONS." 

 

In the picture from left to right: Fr. Ibrahim of Jerusalem;  Edio Costantini., National President of the Italian Sports Center; the Director General of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, Monsignor Liberio Andreatta; Raphael Ben-Hur of the Ministry of Tourism; Bishop Joseph Clemens;  the Custodian of the Holy Sites in the Holy Land, Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa.  In the background behind Monsignor Andreatta is Iki Bar Yosef,  Director of the  Jerusalem Tourism Authority.

 

At the end of the run, a festive ceremony was held with the participation of  the head of the Italian Bishops delegation., numerous ambassadors of participating countries, senior representatives of the Catholic Church, and representatives of the Palestinian Tourism Private Sector Forum.  Mr. Elias El-Arja, a hotelier from Bethlehem welcomed all to visit Israel and Bethlehem.  "Pilgrimage is the true bridge to peace; it is feasible to pass between the cities, stay one night in Jerusalem and another in Bethlehem.  The bond between the two nations despite the politics is firm and must be strengthened."  Mr. George Abueta and Abrum El-Atrush, also from the Palestinian Tourism Private Sector Forum,  added that we must all work together for a lasting peace. The participants also signed a declaration renewing the call from the year 2000 of Pope John Paul II to all peoples of faith to visit the Holy Land now. The Israel Ministry of Tourism awarded the runners the special medallion that was issued in honor of the event.   

 

 

 

 

In a telephone discussion with Raphael Ben Hur, H.E. Archbishop Sambi reminded us of all the organizational details of the original Marathon task force.  He stressed the importance of the event for the region and all the people and has answered favorably to our request for assistance in promoting this event.  "We did a great job together!  Now it is time to invite everybody to participate".  Archbishop Pietro Sambi is presently serving as Apostolic Nuncio to the USA in Washington D.C..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING THE 2008 MARATHON A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL EVENT

 

Padre Caesar Atuire,Curretn Dir. Gen. Opera Romana Pelligrinaggi is overseeing this significant event.

Updates will be publicized continuously. 

 

 

 

INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS AND ORGANIZATION CAN OBTAIN INFORMATION AND SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE.

PLEASE CONTACT:

 

 

eventi@orpnet.org <mailto:eventi@orpnet.org>

 

c.cipolloni@orpnet.org

 

Tel: 0039.06.69896205

 

WE EXTEND AN INVITATION TO ALL TO JOIN US AT THE GRAND 6TH

John Paul II Pilgrimage Peace Marathon

April 23th, 2009

www.goisrael.com

Wecare@tourism.gov.il

 
 

 

 

 


Mons. Andreatta on the left,

In the center, Archbishop Pietro Sambi

Fr. Artemio on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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