Pope Meets with Delegation From the Italian National Olympic Committee

Emphasizes Sports As a Means of Education in 'Spiritual Competition'

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI met with a delegation from the Italian National Olympic Committee yesterday at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican. Also present were the medal winners from the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

The Pope commended the athletes on their achievements as well as their commitment to the sports competition.

"You were challenged on the competitive plane and in your technical abilities, but first also in your human qualities, putting in the field your talents and capacities, acquired with commitment and rigor in the preparation, constancy in training, and awareness of your limits," he said.

The Holy Father also noted that in every sport both amateur and competitive, requires fairness in competition, respect for the body, and a sense of solidarity.

Sport, the Pope said, "is an educational and cultural good, capable of revealing man to himself and to bring him closer to understanding the profound value of his life." Pope Benedict also said that the Church has an interest in sports because "she recognizes that sports activity affects education, the formation of the person, relations and spirituality."

"This is attested by the presence of games and sports areas in parish oratories and youth centers; it is demonstrated by the sports associations of Christian inspiration, which are schools of humanity, meeting places in which to cultivate also the strong desire for life and for the infinite, which is in adolescents and young people."

Pope Benedict said that sport’s managers, as well as coaches, and sports operators in general, are called to be witnesses of the good of humanity, cooperating with families and educational institutions for the education of young people, in order to achieve the best in sport.

The Pope also noted that the pressure to achieve significant results must never push sports people to take shortcuts as in the case of doping. "May the team spirit itself be an incentive to avoid these blind alleys, but also of support to those who recognize they have erred, so that they feel accepted and helped," the Holy Father said.

Concluding his address, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of sport within the context of the Year of Faith as a means to educate oneself in "spiritual competition". "Thinking then of the commitment of the New Evangelization, the world of sports can also be considered a modern “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” that is, a precious opportunity of encounter open to all, believers and non-believers, where they can experience the joy and also the effort of meeting persons who are different in culture, language and religious orientation," Pope Benedict said.