1° SEMINAIRE INTERNATIONAL DU VATICAN
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.
" 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
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
Analysis of these goals
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.
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
then could the Church not care about it? "
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
promote initiatives that can serve to evangelize the world of sport, especially
those which foster the witness of an authentic Christian life among professional
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'.
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 ".
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.
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
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 ".
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
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.
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 ".
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.
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 ".
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.
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.
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.