Pope Francis has made it a point to encourage the relationship between sport and society during his papacy. When last year’s FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil was getting all the headlines, Pope Francis communicated his support for utilizing sport as a tool for education, peace and development.
“Sport is a tool for communicating values,” the Pope said. “It fosters the good of human beings and contributes to build a more peaceful and fraternal society. Let’s think about loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity.”
Pope Francis did warn in an interview with the Italy Sports Association, “Never let practice and competition get in the way of going to Mass, studying for school, being with friends and helping the poor.”
Last May, at the Vatican, Pope Francis met with athletes, coaches, sports fans and team owners that belong to the Lazio Sports Society, which was established in 1900 by young people who wanted an organization that was open to everyone and upheld sports’ ethical and moral values.
“I encourage you to continue to be welcoming, to value diverse talents,” the Pope told his audience. “And offer a way for people to experience friendship and harmony “without discrimination.”
The Bible teaches that the human person is both body and soul, he said.
“Sometimes it happens that a boy or girl forgets about Mass, catechism because of work-outs and competition. This is not a good sign because it means they do not have their priorities right,” he said.
“Studying, friends, serving the poor” also are important and should not be “neglected in order to do just one thing. No. Everything together,” he said.
He urged them to never let the high pressure and high stakes involved in competition lead them to take “shortcuts as happens in the case of doping.”
“How awful and sterile a victory gained by breaking the rules and deceiving others,” he said.
Pope Francis told them to seek the good “without fear, with courage and with enthusiasm.”
“Spend your life on what really matters and what lasts forever” and put “your talents at the service of bringing people together, friendship and inclusion,” he said.
It’s good to know sports fans are in high places.