06/05/2006, 00.00
NEPAL
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Olympic torch blessed by pope on sacred mount

by Prakash Dubey

The enterprise was undertaken by five Italian mountain climbers. A sixth Italian traveled nearly 130km, barefoot, to take the torch to the foot of the sacred mount of Makalu. The torch was also blessed by the Dalai Lama.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Five Italian mountaineers have scaled the summit of the famous sacred Nepalese Mountain of Makalu. The mountaineers, who reached the peak on 24 May, were carrying the Olympic torch blessed by the Pope and the Dalai Lama.

The team leader, Mario Vielmo, also scaled Everest in 2003. He said: "Our desire is that the blessed Olympic torch may bring wish for peace and prosperity in Nepal and even build bridges between Italy and Nepal." Vielmo spoke of his satisfaction that the arrival of the Olympic torch had coincided with the revival of democracy in the country and hopes for an end to the Maoist insurrection, that has claimed more than 13,000 lives He said he was impressed by the deep spirituality of the Nepalese and said that thanks to the courtesy of the people and its natural beauty, Nepal certainly had a vocation to be a tourist destination.

The other members of the group were Andrea Zamabaldi, Stefano Bertoli, Davide Ferro and Claudio Tessarolo. Another Italian, Antonio Peretti, bore the torch from Italy to Nepal. Peretti landed in April in Tumlingtar in mid-eastern Nepal, and from there, he covered a distance of nearly 130 kilometers, barefoot, until he reached the foot of the 5,600m-high mount of Makalu, where he handed the torch to Vielmo.

Before going to Nepal, Perretti went to the Vatican and to Dharamshala, in India, to get the Olympic torch blessed by Pope Benedict XVI and by the Dalai Lama.

Ram Ekbal Choudhary, a human rights activist, told AsiaNews that carrying the blessed torch to the top of Mt Makalu "symbolizes human solidarity that goes beyond faith." Choudhary, who is a Hindu in favour of inter-faith dialogue, said: "Mt Makalu is very important for us Hindus. The Italian team, whose members are traditionally Christians, had the torch blessed by the Pope and Dalai Lama. This has added solemnity to the sacred peak, because now it will be the object of reverence of Christians and Buddhists too."

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