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Monday, December 17, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - "Any sporting activity, be it at amateur or professional level, requires loyalty in competition, respect for one's own body, a sense of solidarity and altruism; it and then also brings joy, satisfaction and celebration. All this presupposes a path of true human development, requiring sacrifice, tenacity, patience, and above all humility, which does not receive applause but which is the secret of victory".

This morning, with these words, the Pope received the athletes who represented Italy in the London 2012 Olympics, and who won a total of 28 medals, eight of them gold. The athletes were accompanied by the directors of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).

"The Church regards sport as a part of man's entire being, and recognises that sporting activity is linked to education, the formation of the person, relationships between people and spirituality", said the Holy Father. "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 recognise Him in the face of his companions and even that of his adversaries. ... I think of you, dear athletes, as both champions and witnesses, with a mission to accomplish: with the admiration you inspire, become valid models to imitate, ... masters of an honest and transparent sporting practice".

The Pope reiterated to the athletes that the pressure to obtain impressive results should not induce them "to take short cuts, as in the case of 'doping'. The team spirit that should encourage avoidance of these blind alleys should also give support to those who are aware of having made this mistake so that they might be heard and assisted.

In relation to the Year of Faith, the Holy Father emphasised that sport could also play a role in educating in "spiritual 'professionalism', or rather, living each day seeking the triumph of good over evil, truth over lies and love over hate, above all in ourselves. Considering the commitment to new evangelisation, the world of sport may also be considered as a modern "Courtyard of the Gentiles", that is, a valuable forum open to all, believers and non-believers, where it is possible to experience the joy and difficulties of encountering people of diverse cultures, languages and religious orientations".

Finally, the Pope recalled Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, "a young man who embodied both passion for sport - especially mountaineering - and passion for God", and invited the athletes to read his biography. "Blessed Pier Giorgio shows us that being Christians means loving life, loving nature, and above all, loving one's neighbour, and especially those in difficulty. I hope that each one of you will experience the greatest joy of all: that of improving and loving more day by day".

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