Vatican partnership will assure faith focus for Canadian pilgrims

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  • March 23, 2011
Patrizia De Libero Brown says Ornit-organized tours will allow pilgrims to meet with the local Church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - If Catholics are ever going to feel at home in a global Church and a globalized world, they had better get out there, far from home, said Fr. Caesar Atuire, CEO of the Vatican’s service to pilgrims.

Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi has forged a North American partnership to offer travel services for Canadian pilgrims. Ornit, official distributor of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi services in North America, will offer pilgrimage packages to Rome, Lourdes, Israel and Palestine, walking pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, social justice tours of Nepal and event packages for World Youth Day and the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Working with Opera Romana, Ornit’s tours assure a faith focus for all their pilgrimages, including daily Mass.

“We’re living in a globalized world,” said Atuire at a Toronto news conference March 15 detailing the partnership.

Over the past couple of generations the Catholic Church’s spiritual response to those changes has been to recover its spirituality of pilgrimage, said Atuire. 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 per year who take Opera Romana trips come from countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines, said Atuire.

“The axis of the Catholic Church is moving away from Europe,” he said.

More than ever, pilgrimages represent an important opportunity to discover and reforge the global unity of the Catholic Church, he said.

The most important aspect of any 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 Ornit’s Patrizia De Libero Brown.

“A journey of the spirit cannot happen without human faces,” she said.

While the spirituality of pilgrimage had an important advocate for 27 years with John Paul II in St. Peter’s chair, we still have a long way to go, said Atuire.

“The theology of pilgrimage is not taught in the seminaries,” he 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 Atuire.

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

“There’s no magic to it,” he said. “If any change is going to take place, it’s going to come from you.”

Ornit considers its market the 67 million Catholics in North America. In the last year it has established offices in Texas and Massachusetts. Travel agents can book pilgrimages through Ornit, or individuals and groups can deal directly with Ornit using a toll-free number — 1-800-631-9640.

Details about pilgrimages are available at www.ornit.net.

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