By Giampaolo Mattei
Pope Francis met on Saturday with a delegation of the Athletica Vaticana association, which on 5 June will be in the Republic of San Marino to participate in the athletic Championships of the Small States of Europe.
The delegation of the Vatican sports association, accompanied by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was received by the Pope shortly after 11:00 am in the private library of the Apostolic Palace.
Sacramental of beauty
Speaking off-the-cuff to the group, the Pope noted that it is significant and important that the Vatican has its own sports team, as the Church has at heart all that is human and concerns the human person.
Sports, said the Pope, is a central dimension in people's daily lives, so much so that it can be seen as a "sacramental of beauty." He underscored the importance of working together as a team, a key element in sports.
Pope Francis went on to recommend to the Athletica Vaticana delegation to always live with a community spirit, training together, running together, and never losing sight of the importance of amateur, non-professional sporting activity.
The Pope gave each representative of Athletica Vaticana a publication on "Sports according to Pope Francis – an open letter to an Olympic athlete", published by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport (by Pier Bergonzi and Fr. Marco Pozza) which will be distributed in several languages at the Olympic village in Tokyo. In his interview with the Italian sports daily, the Pope also speaks about the experience of Athletica Vaticana.
The Pope was symbolically presented with a relay baton, white in color, with the Latin inscription Simul Currebant - the "motto" of Athletica Vaticana in reference to the passage in the Gospel of John (20:4), when Peter and John "both ran" on the morning of the Resurrection.
Pope Francis autographed the baton which - just like in a relay race - will be handed over at the San Marino Stadium to the representatives of the Small States of Europe. Not all 18 States will be present at the Championships due to the pandemic and health emergency.
Goal of peace
In his remarks to the Pope, Cardinal Ravasi noted that "Athletica Vaticana takes part among the 'small' States of Europe with a dimension, that of 'smallness', which has now more than ever of great significance."
He went on to say that "even if tensions are not lacking today between some 'small' States, sports since their inception in human experience can offer a place of encounter and getting to know one another that makes prejudices and hostility fall away. This happens through dialogue between different cultures and religions, creating friendship between persons and peoples until they run together - simul currere - towards the common goal, that is, peace."