The sixth annual John Paul II Pilgrimage Peace Marathon was launched on April 23 from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
The marathon, which aims to continue the legacy of Pope John Paul II for peace, brotherhood, and inter-faith dialogue, was taking place three weeks before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Israel. About 100 Israeli and Palestinian runners and about 50 runners from Italy participated in the race. The Italian delegation, headed by senior Vatican official Cardinal Josef Clemens, is the first delegation of the thousands of pilgrims expected to arrive in Israel as a result of the Papal visit, May 11-15.
For the first time, two leading Italian athletes joined the peace marathon: three-time Olympic foil fencing champion Giovanna Trillini, and former AC Milan football star Demetrio Albertini, who now serves as the Deputy President of the Italian Football Association. Former Italian volleyball world champion Andrea Zorzi also joined the marathon as in previous years.
The delegation members had decided to honor the memory of the millions killed in the Holocaust by laying a wreath at Yad Vashem on their arrival last Wednesday.
This unique marathon is an initiative of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the CSI, the Italian Sports Association. The marathon took place with the cooperation of the Municipality of Jerusalem.
The marathon began at the Manger Square in Bethlehem and ended at Notre Dame Church in Jerusalem with a festive ceremony and the distribution of medals.