“We are not, nor do we wish to become, martyrs,” Antonio Diella explained. Diella is president of Unitalsi, an Italian organization that organizes pilgrimages for patients to Lourdes.
He hopes on the Mideast trip his pilgrims will be “witnesses of an appeal for peace.”
Until September 2000, when the second intifada began, Unitalsi was, along with the Roman Work of Pilgrimages, the first “tour operator” in Israel and Palestine.
The pilgrimage, scheduled for Dec. 14-20, will take 300 pilgrims to the Holy Land. The 50 handicapped pilgrims will be looked after by specialized assistants and other members of the pilgrimage group.
The initiative includes offering material aid to poor families in Israel and the Autonomous Palestinian Territories.
The pilgrimage will be led by Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, archbishop emeritus of Ravenna, and Elio Toaff, the former chief rabbi of Rome.