The Pope made that observation Saturday when he received some 400 pilgrims from Varese, Italy, at Castel Gandolfo. The pilgrims were celebrating the centenary of St. Victor's youth oratory and of the Robur et Fides sports association.
According to the Holy Father, the oratory is the most appropriate place for the pastoral care of youth. Along with the family, such a pastoral center "constitutes a priority for the Church," he said.
The center is an environment where children and youths can reinforce "the values received in the family," the Pope said. "Sports activities, offered by the parishes, contribute" to this objective. If well planned, they help "young people to be generous and mutually supportive," he said.
The Holy Father expressed the hope that the cultural and sport services offered by parishes "be distinguished by a generous opening to solidarity."
It is precisely in service, inspired by prayer, that one finds "the privileged way" for the birth and growth of authentic ecclesial vocations "marked by dedication to the service of others," John Paul II stressed.