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Vatican Partnership Encourages Pilgrimages to Rome

May 20th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi works to accompany pilgrims on journeys around the world with adequate spiritual assistance and logistical organization. It promotes pilgrimages to important destinations that have a spiritual and cultural interest. While they have developed many itineraries to Catholic Christian destinations for pilgrims from around the world, they also help to organize customized itineraries based on individual groups' needs and desires.

BOSTON, Mass -- Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP) has forged a North American partnership to offer spiritual pilgrimages for American and Canadian travellers. Ornit, the official distributor of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi services in North America, will offer pilgrimage packages to Rome, Lourdes and other Marian sites, Israel and Palestine, walking pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, as well as social justice and event packages. Tours custom-tailored for individuals and groups are also possible.

ORP is a department of the Vatican, the Vatican's Institutional Unit of the Vicariate of Rome, Department of the Holy See, at the direct dependence of the Cardinal Vicariate of the Holy Father. Having the imprimatur of the Holy See, their guides and pastoral leaders are trained Catholics. What distinguishes ORP from other travel agencies, even Catholic operators, is that they are able to "open doors" to special places which may not otherwise be possible.  Working with ORP, Ornit's tours assure a faith focus for all their pilgrimages, including daily Mass.

Founded in 1934, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi works to accompany pilgrims on journeys around the world with adequate spiritual assistance and logistical organization. It promotes pilgrimages to important destinations that have a spiritual and cultural interest. While they have developed many itineraries to Catholic Christian destinations for pilgrims from around the world, they also help to organize customized itineraries based on individual groups' needs and desires. ORP is also committed each day to furthering its other important mission of creating a dialogue, as well as solidarity, charity and peace among people.

"We're living in a globalized world," said Patrizia De Libero Brown, ORP/Ornit's representative for the Eastern US and Canada.

"We believe that a pilgrimage is a lasting inner experience. It is a "journey of the spirit" that stimulates and helps a traveller to feel the presence of Christ in him or her and in others," said De Libero Brown. "It is also a way to explore the beauty of life and its Creations, a search for a face, as result of offering one another. A pilgrimage is a real opportunity for an inner transformation."

"Over the past couple of generations the Catholic Church's spiritual response to those changes has been to recover its spirituality of pilgrimage," said De Libero Brown. Discovering the Catholic Church today means discovering the pilgrim Church, whether it's through a monastic experience in the Holy Land or time travel through the history of the Church in Rome.

In a globalized world, pilgrimage is no longer the privileged experience of relatively wealthy North Americans and Europeans. Increasingly the 750,000 people who take Opera Romana trips each year come from countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines. More than ever, pilgrimages represent an important opportunity to discover and reforge the global unity of the Catholic Church.

"The most important aspect of any ORP/Ornit-organized tour is the opportunity to meet with the local Church and local people, whether it's in a village in the Palestinian Territories or along the streets of Rome," said De Libero Brown. "A journey of the spirit cannot happen without human faces," she said.

A pilgrim should experience both the life of the Church and their own personal Christian journey. "Pilgrimage is a metaphor of our Christian existence," said De Libero Brown.

But just buying a package tour doesn't necessarily lead to conversion.

"There's no magic to it," she said. "If any change is going to take place, it's going to come from within. Our mission here in the United States is to help in some small way to bring that about."

Ornit considers its market the 67 million Catholics in North America. In the last year it has established offices in Texas and Massachusetts, where De Libero Brown is based. Travel agents can book pilgrimages through Ornit, or individuals and groups can deal directly with Ornit by calling Ms. De Libero Brown in the Massachusetts office at 1-978-249-6580.

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