Saturday, April 25, 2009

Israelis, Palestinians, Italians conclude annual Pope John Paul II Pilgrimate Peace Marathon

50 Italian runners joined about 100 Israelis and Palestinians in Thursday's sixth annual Pope John Paul II Peace Marathon, which concluded in Jerusalem. As Ecumenical News National reported, "the structure of the run indicated the divided nature of the two main communities participating" ( April 24, 2009):
The marathon began at Manger Square in Bethlehem, with Palestinian and Italian runners leisurely running down the early morning streets.

Israel does not permit its citizens to enter Palestinian territories for security reasons.

Upon the arrival of the runners at the Bethlehem checkpoint near Rachel's Tomb half an hour after the marathon began, the Italian and Palestinian runners were met by Israeli runners. The three groups then continued to the final point of the marathon in downtown Jerusalem across from the Old City wall.

Israel does not allow West Bank Palestinians into Jerusalem -- including East Jerusalem which is also under Israeli control -- without a permit. As in past years, all the Palestinian runners had Israeli permits to cross through the checkpoint to complete the marathon with the rest of the runners.

According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the marathon was joined by several prominent athlets -- three-times Olympic foil fencing champion Giovanna Trillini and former professional football midfielder and AC Milan star Demetrio Albertini (serving today as Deputy President of the Italian Football Association), along with former Italian volleyball world champion Andrea Zorzi.

Lat year's Peace Marathon was particularly memorable with the participation of 62 year old Italian marathon runner Ulderico Lambertucci. The Italian runner, who entered the Guinness Book of Records with 46 marathons in one year, ran 6,000 km from St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to Bethlehem, carrying a message of peace and a torch that received the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. Three weeks after this year's marathon, Pope Benedict XVI himself will deliver messages of peace in Holy Mass in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, as well as Nazareth.

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