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1° SEMINAIRE INTERNATIONAL DU VATICAN
Les buts de la section " Eglise et Sport " par Kevin Lixey

In light of the analysis of the world of sport from the perspective of history, culture, and the church's Magisterium. I would now like to briefly review the goals of the " Church and sport " Section. It is our hope that this will serve as an opportunity for an initial discussion and reflection. After going through each one of these goals, I will also propose some concrete plans of action that follow from these aims.

The " Church and sport " Section, officially inaugurated in August 2004, was envisioned with the following aims: - To insure more direct and systematic attention to the vast world of sport on the part of the Church that fosters a renewal of pastoral work in and through sports.

- To diffuse the teachings of the Church regarding sport and to promote the study and research of various themes of sport, especially those of ethical nature.

- To promote initiatives that can serve to Evangelize the world of sport, especially those which foster the witness of an authentic Christian life among professional athletes.

- To promote a culture of sport in harmony with the true dignity of the human person through youth education (schools, oratories, parish centres, lay movements, and other associations).

- To favour collaboration among the various sporting organizations and associations on the national and international level, serving as a point of reference and dialogue with the various national and international sports entities.   

1.      Analysis of these goals  

To insure more direct and systematic attention to the vast world of sport on the part of the Church that fosters a renewal of pastoral work in and through sports As we have seen, the Church has directed its attention to the world of sport on various occasions, such as the encounter of Pius XII with Catholic sports associations in 1955; the numerous encounters of professional athletic teams with various pontiffs; and the two Jubilees of Sport held by Pope John Paul II in the Holy Year of 1984 and the Great Jubilee of 2000. To some extent these great events have solicited the need for a section dedicated to sport on the level of the Universal Church. Consequently, its institution by the late Pope John Paul II within the Pontifical Council for the Laity speaks eloquently of the Church's concern for this growing sector of society.

Already in1945, Pius XII keenly observed: " Both those who accuse the Church of not caring for the body and physical culture, and those who want to restrict her competence and activity to things described as 'purely religious' and 'exclusively spiritual', are far from the truth. It is as if the body, a creation of God like the soul to which it is united, did not have its part to play in the homage to be rendered to the Creator! In the final analysis. what is sport if not a form of education for the body? As it is educational. it is closely related to morality.

How then could the Church not care about it? "

Aware of the important role that sport occupies in the lives of many people, especially the youth, this office, while working directly with the national bishops' conferences and international associations throughout the world, seeks above all to foster a renewal of pastoral ministry within the particular sporting environments at the local level of the Church. After making an initial contact with numerous bishops' conferences and sporting institutions throughout the world, we received several positive responses expressing interest in the creation of this new section and a willingness to collaborate, and many countries had some type of delegate or office dedicated to a pastoral ministry through sport. Furthermore, many inquiries have been made to the Pontifical Council for the Laity in order to know more about this Section and to know what successful pastoral sporting programs already exist or could be implemented.

To diffuse the teachings of the Church regarding sport and to promote the study and research of various themes of sport, especially those of ethical nature.

We were able to discover in this seminar that the pontiffs of the past century have written much more about sport than one may have imagined. Unfortunately, this is not very well known or promulgated.

Although there are some selections of the Holy Father's words regarding sporting activity in some languages, there does not exist a " critical edition " of all the writings of the pontiffs on this theme. Certainly, the numerous speeches and writings of the pontiffs do provide a substantial " corpus " for the elaboration of a Christian vision. But, a synthesis of this vision needs to be elaborated and consequently applied to real situations and challenges that face today's parent, coach, trainer, fan, and amateur or professional athlete, as well as the institutions involved in sport.

John Paul II, in an address to participants of a congress on Sport and Ethics, referring especially the aspect of youth formation, observed: " The Church must be in the front ranks in this area, in order to plan a special apostolate adapted to the needs of athletes and especially to promote sports which can create the condition of a life rich in hope 3. It is important that the " Church and sport " Section respond to the Hoy Father's appeal. In addition to promoting a Christian vision of sport, this section will serve to coordinate studies on the various ethical questions and problems that specifically involve the world of sport.

To promote initiatives that can serve to evangelize the world of sport, especially those which foster the witness of an authentic Christian life among professional athletes.

Numerous groups of professional athletes have been received by the pontiffs of the last century. Aware of the great relevance sport has in the lives of youth, as well as the important responsibility professional athletes have as role models for the multitudes of young people who look up to them, the Church has consistently encouraged them to live up to this responsibility. John Paul II, had this to say to professional players: " The eyes of sport fans throughout the world are fixed on you. Be conscious of your responsibility! It is not only the champion in the stadium but also the whole person who should become a model for millions of young people, who need 'leaders', not 'idols'.

They need men who can convey to them the zest for challenge, a sense of discipline. the courage to be honest and the joy of unselfishness ".

The Church cannot be absent from this important sphere. In fact, we have heard from the testimony of athletes during the course of this seminar that the world of professional sport needs the Church much more than the Church needs the world of sport ! How can the " Church and sport " Section support those efforts that reach out to professional athletes? Naturally, a pastoral ministry to professional athletes can most effectively be carried out on the national and local level where the players spend most of their time. Whereas the task of this Section is that of assisting in the coordination of activities and events on the international level. In order to reach these objectives, perhaps another event on the level of the Jubilee of Sports could be organized, or perhaps an international association of professional Catholic athletes or other initiatives that encourage champions in the living of their faith could also be promoted.

To promote a culture of sport in harmony with the true dignity of the human person through education (schools, oratories, parish centres, lay movements, and other associations).

Various Pontiffs have pointed out the formative role that sport can play in education. As Pius XII eloquently noted: " Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a person courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor: it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. Sport is an occupation of the whole person, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth ".

Catholic schools, oratories and clubs at the parish level, and Catholic sports associations and youth movements offer an extensive and valid net- work through which the formative aspects of sport can be promoted in order to serve the integral formation of the person. But, it is necessary to ensure that sports programs and sporting activities actually are directed towards this end of youth formation. Because of this, special concern should be given to those who work with youth in order that be made aware of the transcendence of their important formative role.

Given the strong educational component in athletic disciplines, this Section will seek to favour the affirmation of a sporting culture that is at the service of the human person by promoting concrete formation programs for youth. In light of this, we can recall how much the World Youth Days have done to renew youth ministry! Today, youth ministry, in great part, enjoys a dynamic dimension that it did not have before. The important catechetical dimension is now complemented by an experience of the faith. Perhaps a similar application could be made to the world of youth sports so that sporting activities also become a place for a " socialization of the faith " - that is, a place where the faith is lived and experienced as well as taught.

Pope John Paul II in an address to the italian Sports Centre (which works primarily with Catholic sports clubs and parish oratories throughout Italy), encouraged the directors and staff with these words that we can apply to all educators: " My venerated Predecessor, the servant of God Pius XII, then asked your Sodality to be the leaven of Christianity in stadiums, on roads, on mountains, at sea, wherever your banner is raised with honour. In the course of the years, dear friends, you have tried to stay faithful to this behest, presenting the italian Sports Centre as a school for authentic human formation. You have toiled to acquaint children. young people and adults with the riches and beauty of the Gospel. through various types of sports. You have helpers them to encounter Jesus and choose him as their ultimate raison d'ętre. Still today this is your mission, and society still needs it. The efforts of your association to promote sport as a formative experience in the parishes, schools and throughout the territory, will help the young generations to choose and to foster the authentic values of life ".

To favour collaboration among the various sporting organizations and associations on the national and international level, serving as a point of reference and dialogue with the various national and international sports entities.

The role that sports organizations and associations play must not be overlooked. The associations and institutions set policies and procedures that can either succeed or fail in enabling sport to be a significant vehicle for the promotion of human values. Without these values, as John Paul II pointed out, sport would be reduced to mere effort and to a questionable, soulless demonstration of pure physical strength. I would like to recall his address to the Union of   European Football Associations, in which he called for a collaborative effort among sports entities in order to ensure that sport does not lose its formative potential: " In contemporary society football is a widespread sporting activity which involves a great number of people. [ . . . ] This fact emphasizes the responsibility of those who look after the organization and promote the spread of this sporting activity at the professional and amateur level. They are called never to lose sight of the significant educational possibilities which football, like other similar sporting disciplines, can develop. Furthermore, given the spread of this sport, it would be good if promoters, organizers at different levels and communications personnel engaged in concerted efforts to ensure that football never loses its genuine characteristic of being a sporting activity, and that it is not submerged by other concerns, especially economic ones ".

These words of John Paul II have much to say to all sports institutions. By following these indications, Catholic sports organizations can join forces in order to work towards this same goal: a sport at the ser- vice of the human person, and not the person at the service of sport. I believe this objective is already being realized by means of this international seminar in which we have been exchanging ideas and learning from the experiences of others.

II. Some concrete plans of action Construct a sports network As we have seen in the course of these days. the world of sport is as vast as it is complex. Because of this, it is crucial for this Section to establish contact with the various sport institutions and build a net- work of persons (university professors, sport association directors, representatives from national bishop conferences, sports professionals, etc.) with diverse expertise in order to have the resources and means to help us achieve our objectives. Thus, our immediate priority is that of expanding our network among the bishop conferences, as well as with the various Catholic sports associations. " Church and sport " will also continue to make contact with the major international sports institutions.

Elaboration of a Christian vision of sport Although it is not proper to speak of a " Christian " sport, it is fitting to speak of how Christianity specifically enlightens sporting activity by offering a discernment criteria and by broadening its horizons. From its beginning. " Church and sport " has been gathering and studying the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church regarding sport, in order to compile an adequate bibliography for the elaboration of a Christian vision of sport. For this end, it will be necessary on one hand to continue an ongoing study of the teachings of the pontiffs, while on the other hand, remaining in continual contact with the world of sport to know up close its needs and to delineate the fundamental points of a vision of sport that can adequately respond to the particular problems and challenges within the world of sport today.

Develop some suggested guidelines for a pastoral ministry to sport In order to be of real assistance to the bishop's conferences and sports associations, the Section will continue to gather information from youth sports ministry from around the world about the " best practices ", that is, some of the most effective ways sport is being incorporated into youth ministry on various levels. We are also exploring the best way to make all of this information available to all. In this perspective and for this purpose, it would be convenient to hold a future encounter with those who work in the pastoral ministry of sport within the national bishop conferences and within international sporting associations in order to provide a further analysis of these pastoral sports programs that are already in place.