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Pope Francis to Athletes: Promote ‘Spiritual Combativeness’

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In his meeting with members of the Italian National Olympic Committee Friday, Pope Francis compared athletics to the spiritual life, saying that the Church’s role is to urge people toward “a strong sense of spiritual combativeness.”

Francis went on to note that much of the vocabulary is the same for both sports and spirituality. “The Saints understood this,” Francis said, and projected athletic passion, enthusiasm, perseverance, determination, challenges, and limits “beyond themselves toward the horizon of God.”

The Pope also quoted St. Paul, who encouraged training in the true faith, because, he said, “while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.”

The Pope also praised the Olympic Charter, which lifts up “the centrality of the person, the harmonious development of man, and the defense of human dignity.”

“Sport,” Francis said, favors “a universalism characterized by brotherhood and friendship among peoples, and peace and harmony among nations” and can therefore “open new, sometimes unexpected paths, to overcoming conflicts.”

“The Olympic motto of ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (faster, higher, stronger),” said Francis, is the challenge to which all of us, and not just athletes, are called.” It encourages us, he said, “to make the effort and sacrifice to achieve important goals in life, accepting our limitations without being blocked by them.”

The Pope also invited his hearers to “promote athletics accessible to all,” and urged them to be “attentive to the weakest and the most underprivileged” sectors of society, “including people with different disabilities.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

 

 


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