Benedict XVI: Sports Is Key to Integral Development

Sends Message for European Soccer Championship

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is inviting players, fans and all of society to live the European Soccer Championship that began today with a spirit of peace and joy.

The Pope sent a message to Archbishop Józef Michalik, president of the Polish episcopal conference, on the occasion of the UEFA EURO 2012 being held in Poland and Ukraine.

The Holy Father's message recalled the words of his predecessor John Paul II, who said that sport is important for the integral development of the person, and that the sense of brotherhood, generosity, honesty and respect for the body that comes from sports helps to build a society where conflict is replaced by healthy competition.

Benedict XVI said that if sport is understood in this way, it is not an end but a means, and can be a tool of civilization, motivating people to put the best of themselves on the field and reject that which could be dangerous or harmful for oneself and for others.

Moreover, the Pontiff continued, team sports such as soccer, "are an important school for educating in a sense of respect for others, including respect for the adversary [in the competition]; [team sports] increase a spirit of personal sacrifice for the good of the group; they improve relations within the team; and cause the logic of individualism and egotism -- which often characterize human relationships -- to be overcome, to give space to the logic of fraternity and love, the only thing which enables the promotion -- at every level -- of the true common good."