2° SEMINAIRE INTERNATIONAL DU VATICAN
I have been assigned the task of concluding this seminar, I wish to offer all of
you - without presuming to make an exhaustive summary - an interpretive key: the
remarks that Pope Benedict XVI made regarding the formation of youth which he
gave to Catholic educators of the Diocese of Rome on June of 2007. In fact, I
must say that I was surprised to find such a close convergence between the ideas
expressed during our seminar and those of the Holy Father regarding the
challenges to be faced in educating the youth and the solutions prosided therein.
Eminence, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, opened our reflection with this fundamental
question: Considering the crisis and evident con- predictions that plague sport
today, is it still possible to attribute to it an educational role? In response
to this question, the talks and interventions revealed the great complexity of
the problems that face sport. In particular, we saw how sport's tremendous
growth in popularity over the years has often caused it to be " used "
as an ambiguous means of promoting political or social ideologies or to fulfil
purely economic gains. Furthermore, we saw how this same ambivalence - made ever
more poignant within a global and relativistic society that has left its mark on
contemporary man - is making it difficult to proceed in a constructive way
within this world of sport.
we have considered how the world of sport is also a mirror of a secular society
that has gone to the extreme, at least in some European countries, of attempting
to erase some fundamental signs and elements of its Christian origin. The Holy
Father, in the above mentioned address to educators, clearly pointed out how
secularism has grown side by side with the crisis in formation of youth at the
Today, in fact, - noted Pope Benedict XVI - every educational task seems more
and more arduous and precarious. Consequently, there is talk of a great 'educational
emergency', of the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic
values of life and correct behaviour to the new generations, a difficulty that
involves both schools and families and, one might say, any other body with
educational aims ".
addition to a crisis that prevails in many families and schools, we must also
face the negative messages that are proposed by the mass media, all the more
intrusive when it comes to sport since it is inevitable influenced by the media.
With regards to this the Pontiff noted that " Today, more than in the past,
the education and formation of the per- son are influenced by the messages and
general climate spread by the great means of communication and which are
inspired by a mindset and culture marked by relativism, consumerism and a false
and destructive exaltation, or rather, profanation, of the body and of sexuality
our seminar we have considered that the serious problems that afflict sport are
not particular only to the world of an athlete, but are rooted in a crisis of
values that involves our entire globalized society. A new concept of life has
emerged - described by some such as Zygmunt Bauman as a " liquid " -
which finds its source in the rapid progress of information technology, the over
emphasis on the " quality of life ", the
rapid spread of multiculturism, and, above all, from an ethical and
existential relativism which is the real culprit of the educational crisis.
Frequently. this rapid transformation catches educators off-guard and unprepared
because they themselves lack a critical eye or even imbibe this same relativism.
" educational emergency " that also threatens sport in a dramatic way,
is, according to Pope Benedict XVI, " an inevitable emergency " as He
goes on to observe that " in a society, in a culture, which all too often
make relativism its creed - relativism has become a sort of dogma - in such a
society the light of truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and
" authoritarian " to speak of truth, and the end result is doubt about
the goodness of life ".
we have seen, the educational crisis also corresponds to a crisis in role models
as the youth lack persons to whom they can turn to for reference or for
guidance. To fill in this vacancy, the world of sport is quick to offer a
multitude of fans its own sport heroes - champions whom the youth seek to
imitate for their sporting ability and yet end up emulating them also as role
models for their personal lives.
reflections have brought us to the conclusion that sports are at a decisive
crossroads: Sport must either rediscover its great potential for transmitting
values and authentic virtues or it will succumb to a dominating utilitarianism
that limits sport to pure physical activity or pure business. As it emerged in
our discussion, educational institutions and sport associations are continually
threatened by the danger of a reductionism ideology that prevents the person
from being considered as a whole, in his or her entirety.
a similar reductionism in education, the Holy Father observed that "
education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmit- sion of specific
abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavour to satisfy the desire
for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and
transitory gratification ".
can only escape from this crisis imposed upon it by the " dictatorship of
relativism " only if the world of sport learns how to open up to God, the
only one who can guarantee the authentic values of life and human relations.
athletes who have offered us their testimonies highlighted the importance of
being able to find in their sport's environments some type of reference to God,
especially in the person of a chaplain or by some other means. One athlete, in
fact, even lamented the lack of such a figure and the negative consequences
suffered due to the absence of priest in his sporting world.
some countries, such as Germany, the world of sport is traditionally considered
as non-confessional. Howerer, out of respect for the personal convictions of the
individual, an openness to the transcendent is becoming more and more
universally acknowledged as something that is necessary for all, and does not in
any way jeopardize a healthy secularism.
Holy Father also pointed this out during an encounter with a group of italian
clergy. " There is light and hope - said the Holy Father - only if God
appears. Our life has a meaning which we must not pro- duce ourselves but which
precedes us and guides us. In this sense, therefore, I would say that together.
we should take the obvious routes which today even the lay conscience can easily
discern. We should therefore seek to guide people to the deepest voices, to the
true voice of the conscience ".
rapid spread of ambiguous aims that are centred on only the material "
success " of an individual or an institution's which are at times quite at
odds with the common good and even harmful for the youth involved, makes it all
the more urgent the presence of an educator who is authentic and courageous,
well prepared, and determined to find a balance between these extremes. And this
is precisely the field of the sport chaplain.
sport chaplain finds himself on the front line as a unique point of reference
for the youth, but not only for them. The figure of the priest, then, manifests
its particular significance in opposing the onslaught of relativism and atheism.
we have heard in the testimonies of the players, the sport chap- lain manifests
a closeness on the part of the Church that can be of sustenance for those
suffering the loneliness or disorientation that can especially arise in
disaggregated families and even dispose one to confrontational or alienist
respect to this. Pope Benedict XV recalled that " education and especially
Christian education . . . has need of that closeness which is proper to love.
Especially today, when isolation and loneliness are a widespread condition to
which noise and group conformity is no real remedy, personal guidance becomes
essential, giving those who are growing up the assurance that they are loved,
understood and listened to ".
was noted more than once during our seminar - taking into account the need to
form the very parents of these children is all the more urgent as they are
either absent or incapable of transmitting to their children basic values. Yet,
the role of the chaplain remains irreplaceable even when the children come from
families that are solid and intact, for as the Holy Father also noted, " as
children gradually grow up, their inner desire for personal autonomy naturally
increases. Especially in adolescence, this can easily lead to them taking a
critical distance from their family.
Here, the closeness which can be guaranteed by the priest, Religious,
catechist or other educators capable of making the friendly face of the Church
and love of Christ concrete for the young arson. becomes particularly important
the beginning of this seminar and throughout, the essential credentials of a
true Christian educator have been called to mind, and these hold true for the
essential characteristics that the sport chaplain must possess. First of all, he
must be concerned for the good of sport, be committed to it, and go beyond
seeking temporary solutions to its maladies, but have the courage and bravado to
propose more lasting solutions.
was seen that a chaplain must live his mission in a gratuitous way, not
expecting immediate results for his work, but remaining true to what he proposes
while knowing how to maintain a positive rapport with these young athletes. To
recap some of the suggestions made during the seminar, it was noted that the
chaplain should be present not only at the big competitive events, but also in
the other moments of an athlete's life; he should manifest himself as a friend,
but also as an authoritative voice, as one who is also capable of educating the
coaches and trainers and also the parents. It is asked that the chaplain welcome,
orientate, and know how to " train " this passion for sport in the
youth, accompanying them in the difficulties and promoting a sense of joyful
hope. He should know how to live up to the demands of being on this frontier by
orientating all to those values that transcend the result- driven world of
sport, knowing how to interpret and enlighten these deeper aspirations that
surface in these athletes, regardless of their reli-gious perspective. Here too,
it was mentioned the need to write or prepare materials that can help the
athletes to reflect on the deeper meaning of their sporting endeavours.
the task and responsibility that is assigned to the sports chaplain can seem
like too much, far exceeding their human capacities.
to help us to better understand what is really the heart of the matter, we have
the Holy Father's words that outline a type of identikit of the educator when
viewed in the light of Christ: " The task of education passes through
freedom but also requires authority. . . A witness of Christ does not merely
transmit information but is personally involved with the truth Christ proposes
and, through the coherency of his own life, becomes a dependable reference
point. However, he does not refer to himself, but to Someone who is infinitely
greater than he is, in whom he has trusted and whose trustworthy goodness he has
than once, was it expressed during this seminar the desire that the Church make
its pastoral action within the world of sport more active at all levels. As
" Mater et Magister " of all Christians, and of humanity, the Church
recognizes that sport can play a role in transmitting fundamental values. As it
was fittingly recalled - her mission encompasses all spheres of human life,
including that of sport. Furthermore, the Holy Father reminded parents and
educators that the Church, according to Vatican II, cannot remain extraneous
from these human spheres. He urged us with these words: " we certainly
cannot fail to take interest in the overall orientation of the society to which
we belong, in the trends that motivate it and in the positive or negative
influence that it exercises on the formation of the new generations. The very
presence of the community of believers, its educational and cultural commitment..
. are in fact an invaluable service to the common good and especially to the
children and youth who are being trained and prepared for life ".
Many of the participants of this seminar expressed their hope that the
presence of the Church within the field of sport might shed light on the
profound motivations, the anthropological premises that cause so many people
from so many cultural backgrounds to practice this activity. As we have recalled,
the authentic human foundation, which is consequently also Christian. of this
much shared interest is none other than an expression of the desire for
happiness and fulfilment that is enkindled within the human heart. In fact, it
is this very thirst for the Absolute that constitutes the guarantee and
underlying premise of an educational itinerary that is capable of purifying and
elevating sport so as to bring out its inherent values. In order for sport to be
truly " formative ", it must reawaken the authentic ideals of its
are values that are compatible with the values inherent to the practice of
Christianity: the exercise of the human virtues, loyalty and self sacrifice, a
sense of responsibility, dedication and asceticism. This is all a matter of, as
expressed in the words of the Holy Father, " obeying the voice of being
In this perspective, the need has also been expressed for having a systematic
and theoretical method for pastoral ministry to sport that can point out its
theological, anthropological, ethical, educational, and spiritual aspects ].
have seen that the pastoral care to the world of sport is such a broad ranging
and important task that cannot be sustained solely by the work of chaplains.
What is needed, is an entire network of people who are engaged in the formation
of youth through sports, particularly Catholic organizations. In this regards,
it is desirable that all of the national bishop's conferences establish an ad
hoc liaison to favor the coordination among all Formational institutions on the
national level, just as the " Church and sport " Section within the
Pontifical Council for the Laity is at the level of the universal church.
However, in order to efficaciously penetrate the world of sport this
collaboration should be as far reaching as possible and should also extend to
the ecumenical level. Along these same lines, Pope Benedict stressed that, with
regards to the education of youth, the entire Christian community, with all its
many branches and components, " must express and manifest. . . our
and readiness to work together to 'build a network', to achieve with an open and
sincere mind every useful form of synergy ... " Lastly, many have expressed
during these days their hope that the Holy See might provide a type of vademecum
that could provide orientation for the pastoral ministry of sport, serving both
to channel the efforts of all those already engaged in service to the world of
catholic youth sports, and to solicit a greater interest in this field on the
part of pastors. Additionally, many chaplains have expressed their need of
booklets or other materials grounded in scripture and a spiritual vision of
sport that can assist hem in the evangelization efforts in this field.
we will continue to analyze and evaluate the many suggestions and initiatives
that have surfaced during these days of reflection, I wish to now conclude my
remarks by thanking all of the participants – the experts, athletes, coaches
and trainers, and all those who work in the pastoral field of sport, but
especially, the sport chaplains. We have seen that this work is not at all easy,
nor often appropriately appreciated, and nearly always stretches you beyond your
other pastoral obligations.
Despite these difficulties, we believe that the Lord will not allow his help and consolation to be lacking, as a sign of that closeness that he has wanted to establish with humanity as manifest in the incarnation of his Son and his presence in the Church.