Pope Calls on Athletes to Be Role Models
Pope Francis called on athletes to be role models, reminding them that they are followed closely both on the field – or “the pitch,” as the avid soccer fan describes it. His comments occurred eight months after then-Pope Benedict addressed athletes from the 2012 Olympics and asked them to avoid “short cuts, as in the case of doping.”
"People Follow You Very Closely and Not Only on The Field but Also Off It," Pope Francis said. "Therefore even if you are famous people, always be human beings first, in sport and in life. Be men, bearers of humanity."
According to Catholic Culture's account of a December 17 audience with Italian athletes who had participated in the 2012 Olympic Games:
Pope Benedict XVI made the provocative observation that humility is “the secret of victory.”
The Pope praised the athletes’ dedication to their goals, and said that the Church sees athletic competition as a kind of education. He said: “The athlete who lives his experience fully pays attention to God's plan for his life, learns to listen to His voice throughout the long periods of training, to recognize Him in the face of his companions and even that of his adversaries.”
Pope Benedict asked the athletes to behave as “both champions and witnesses, with a mission to accomplish: with the admiration you inspire, become valid models to imitate.” He encouraged them to be models of team spirit and honest sportsmanship, and to avoid “short cuts, as in the case of doping.”