One thousand Catholic pilgrims are arriving in Israel from Italy this week to participate in the sporting activities planned in the John Paul ll Games 2010, which are being held for the seventh time, starting on Sunday, April 25.

The Games are an initiative led by the official Vatican pilgrimage organization Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, in cooperation with the Italian Olympic Committee.

The Bethlehem-Jerusalem Run is the opening event. Runners include some 500 Italians, Palestinians from Bethlehem and Israelis who, for the first time within the framework of the run, have been granted permission to enter Bethlehem and join the other runners from the starting point.

The run will culminate in an opening ceremony at Rachel’s Crossing where official representatives and participants are to sign a joint proclamation calling for peace and brotherhood in the Holy Land.

Other activities planned include a women’s volleyball game, a swimming competition and a cycling event to inaugurate the Gospel Trail that starts in Nazareth. Following the cycling event, hundreds of Italian pilgrims will celebrate Mass in five boats, anchored on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

The Games aim to continue the legacy of Pope John Paul II by promoting pilgrimage to the Holy Land, peace, brotherhood and inter-faith cooperation.