Athletica Vaticana Cycling Team Athletica Vaticana Cycling Team  (Vatican Media)

World Cycling Championships: Vatican athletes 'train in solidarity'

As the World Cycling Championship comes to an end in the Scottish city of Glasgow, our correspondent at the event, Mario Galgano, reports on the initiatives carried out by the Vatican team.

By Mario Galgano & Edoardo Giribaldi

"We don't 'just' go cycling at the World Cup; we also train in solidarity."

Almost one year ago, on 25 September 2022, for the first time in international sports history, an athlete representing the Vatican City State officially participated in a World Championship.

The venue was the World Road Cycling Championships in Wollongong, Australia, and the athlete was Rien Schuurhuis, husband of Chiara Porro, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See.

Athletica Vaticana in Scotland

This year, Vatican Cycling - which, as part of Athletica Vaticana, has been recognized by the International Cycling Union since September 2021 - was back in action in Glasgow for the World Cycling Championships.

Mr. Schuurhuis competed on Sunday in the élite test, the most important of the thirteen scheduled races.

The Vatican team also competed in the 160-kilometer Gran Fondo with Rino Alberto Bellapadrona, who grew up in the Villa Pontificia in Castel Gandolfo; and Marcus Bergmann, Austria's Ambassador to the Holy See.

Social inclusion initiatives

The delegation sought to bear witness to the authentic values that are part of the history of cycling, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable people and on social inclusion initiatives.

Among them, Mr. Schurrhuis mentioned how the bicycle that he rode with during the World Championships, which was donated by the Pinarello company, "will be auctioned, and the proceeds will be entirely donated to the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary, which, in the Vatican, assists 500 poor families with young children."

Some of these minors, who live in poverty and arrived with their parents in Italy on migration routes, learned to pedal right in the Vatican. On 8 July, in front of the Paul VI Hall, Athletica Vaticana put them on bikes for the first time.

Children learning to pedal in the Vatican
Children learning to pedal in the Vatican

Fraternal and inclusive vision

Speaking with Vatican News' correspondent in Glasgow, Mario Galgano, the athlete also mentioned the meeting that took place with the most fragile people in the Ozanam Center, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Glasgow, "to concretely bear witness to Pope Francis' vision of fraternal and inclusive sport."

Glasgow's Archbishop William Nolan underlined the importance of the World Cycling Championships: "A great sporting event, and like all sporting events, it helps bring people of different cultures, languages, and religions together to participate in events that help build friendships among us all."

“Sport is for everyone”

Athletica Vaticana was already a protagonist of initiatives that saw the positive values of sports as vehicles through which athletes could promote gestures of solidarity and fraternity.

Athletica Vaticana delegation meets with the Pope (Vatican Media)
Athletica Vaticana delegation meets with the Pope (Vatican Media)

For example, in 2022 the Vatican delegation in Australia met with the Aboriginal community and embraced some survivors of the tragedy of being forcibly taken away from their families.

"Sport is for everyone," Mr. Schuurhuis concluded, "and everyone in sport has the same dignity. That is why it is also a way to find paths of unity and peace, recognizing the richness of our diversity with a common language that everyone can understand."

We must stay with young people

Vatican News also had the opportunity to speak with Bernard Hinault, five-time Tour de France winner and two-time Giro d'Italia winner.

With a glance toward Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Portugal for World Youth Day, Mr. Hinault stressed the relevance of young people, as they represent "the future."

"They will be the ones to rule the world in a few years. So it is very important that we are already with them, all together, regardless of nationality, skin color, or anything else."

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07 August 2023, 11:15