By Devin Watkins
“We Run Together” is an online fundraising initiative launched on 8 June to help provide financial support for two hospitals in the north of Italy.
The John XXIII Hospital in Bergamo and the Policlinic Foundation in Brescia have been working to provide quality care to patients with Covid-19 in areas that were hard-hit in the early days of the pandemic.
Set up by the Vatican Athletic Association, “We Run Together” concluded on 6 August and was organized in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Culture, the “Yellow Flames” of Italy’s Financial Police, and the Italian Federation of Light Athletics (FIDAL) of the Lazio Region.
Helping doctors assist the ill
Pope Francis met Saturday with a delegation from the sporting initiative. An audience scheduled for 21 May had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pope began his greetings by thanking a hospital staff member representing the two institutions which benefited from the charity event.
“In greeting you, I greet all of your colleagues in Italy and around the world, who are working and making sacrifices to assist the sick,” said the Pope. “May God repay you for your dedication!”
Encounter in human dignity
Pope Francis also thanked the numerous athletes from across the globe who donated sporting goods to be sold in the auction.
Items donated included a bicycle donated by cycling champion Peter Sagan and a shirt which Alex Zanardi wore at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“It gave me great joy to know that several athletes even opened the doors of their homes to experience the joy of a direct encounter,” he added. “Opening the doors of one’s house means opening one’s heart.”
The “We Run Together” initiative, said the Pope, provided an opportunity for “athletic champions and other champions with disabilities” to meet together on the “same plane of human dignity.”
Sport that heals wounds
He said the most eloquent message offered by the fundraiser was its witness to a type of sport “that is inclusive, fraternal, and able to heal wounds, build bridges, and friendship.”
“True sport,” noted the Pope, “always maintains an amateur dimension… It is free.”
Pope Francis concluded his greetings by commending members of Vatican Athletics for promoting this model of sport.
“With God’s help,” he said, “we run together for fraternity and human dignity.”