Travel: Vatican and Israel sign deal to bring pilgrims to Holy Land

Rome, 28 August (AKI) - The Vatican and Israel's tourism ministry have signed a deal aimed at increasing flights between Italy and Israel to ease travel for Catholic pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, the Israeli-daily Yedioth Aharonoth reported Tuesday.

"We have put together some very attractive tours, which cover classic holy Christian sites, but also include sun in Tel-Aviv, and a visit to the Dead Sea", Suzan Kalgesbrun, manager of the Israeli tourism ministry's Milan office told the Israeli daily.

She added that Israel was also interested in bringing secular Italians to the country, and has "created ad and PR (Public Relations) campaigns to encourage non-religious Italians to visit Israel".

In a separate development also aimed at bolstering visits by Catholics to holy sites, it was announced on Monday that Mistral, a private charter airline, through an agreement with the Vatican will aim to fly an estimated 150,000 visitors a year to the Holy Land.

Mistral, based in Italy, is owned by the Italian postal system, with the the Vatican owning a minority stake.

The five-year agreement with Mistral aims to bring pilgrims to Christianity's holiest sites, including Mount Sinai in Egypt, Lourdes in France, Jerusalem, the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain among others.

The Boeing 737-300 Mistral will use for the flight carrying pilgrims will be painted in the Vatican's colours of white and yellow.

The airline's slogan, printed on the plane's headrests will read "I am searching for Your face, Lord".

The flights will leave from Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci's airport, since the Holy See does not have a runway, although the Pope has his own helicopter and heli-pad inside Vatican City.


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