Benedict XVI Greets Tour de France Cyclists

Encourages Sports With Values

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AOSTA, Italy, JULY 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is greeting participants of the Tour de France bicycle race, which today is passing close to the Alpine village in northern Italy where he is vacationing.



In a Vatican communiqué, the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, extended the Pope's "cordial" greetings to "all the athletes and to the organizers of the race."

The annual race, which covers around some 2,200 miles on average through France and neighboring countries, is broken into 21 day-long stages.

The 16th stage's course passed through Switzerland and Italy today, just under two miles from Les Combes in the Aosta Valley of Introd, where the Pontiff's vacation chalet is located.

The Holy Father is also "extending his thoughts to all sports men and women currently involved in various activities and competitions," the spokesperson reported.

He continued, affirming Benedict XVI's hope that "involvement in sport may contribute to the integral development of the person, and that it may never be separated from respect for moral and educational values."

On Vatican Radio, Father Lombardi explained that it has been some sixty years since the Tour de France passed through the Aosta Valley, and for this reason it is seen as an "exceptional event."

As well, he stated, the first winner of the race, Maurice Garin, was an athlete born in the valley.

It is for this reason, the spokesperson affirmed, that Benedict XVI wanted to send a "simple but significant greeting."