Vatican City, 4 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope received in audience seven thousand disabled athletes, members of the Italian Paralympic Committee. In his address he remarked that sport promotes contact and relations with people from different cultures and environments, and helps us become accustomed to accepting difference, transforming it into an opportunity for mutual enrichment and discovery. “Above all”, he affirmed, “sport becomes a valuable opportunity to recognise that we are brothers and sisters walking side by side, to favour a culture of inclusion and to reject throwaway culture”.
Francis reiterated that this aspect of sport becomes even more evident in relation to disabled athletes, because the physical disability they experience, “through sport and healthy competition, is transformed into a message of encouragement” for those who find themselves in similar situations, and becomes “an invitation to devote all your energies to doing good things together, overcoming barriers that we may encounter around us, and above all, those inside us”.
“Your witness, as athletes”, he exclaimed, “is a great sign of hope. It is the proof that in every person there is potential that at times we do not imagine, and that may develop with trust and solidarity. God the Father is the first to know this! He knows us better than any other, and He looks upon us with trust, He loves us as we are, but he enables us to grow according to what we are able to become. In this way, in your efforts for sport without barriers, for a world without exclusion, you are never alone” God our Father is with you!”.
“May sport therefore be for you a place where you are able to train every day, in relation to yourselves and others, a gymnasium that offers you the chance to get to know new people and environments and that helps you to be an active part of society”.