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1° SEMINAIRE INTERNATIONAL DU VATICAN
Le sport au regard du magistère de l'Eglise par Carla Mazza

As a unique, conscious human activity that engages the entire person through a series of unified, and structured, bodily gestures that test one's individual physical abilities, sport has drawn the attention of the Church. In fact, sport, as an expression of a synchronized action of freedom, will, emotion, and corporality, manifests a great human undertaking and reveals certain characteristics of the human person as a creature who longs to transcend the very limits of his own being.

Church and sport : a relationship of many years

The Church, " expert in humanity " - according to the well noted phrase of Paul VI - looks benevolently upon sport with its individual, social and cultural dimensions. giving each one of these a positive evaluation. The Church recognizes the role that sport can play in perfecting the human person with its potential to moderate human instinct and its capacity to gather people together towards a common goal, promoting fellowship, solidarity, and peace through its universal appeal and ability to draw people from different cultures and backgrounds together in friendly competition.

This vast horizon of positive opportunities confers on sport a generous yield, especially when it is a human action carried out with respect for the rules and in a healthy competitive spirit. These sound results are complemented by an enrichment of the person and of society, in an experience of self satisfaction as well as the joy of community. In order to have an immediate panorama of the vast and complex world of sport today, we can borrow from the French author, Bernard Jeu. According to him, traces of all aspects of reality are to be found in sport : the aesthetic aspect (because sport is observer); the technical aspect (because sport is learned); the commercial aspect (because sport is sold as a good and used to sell many other goods); the political aspect (because sport exalts cities and nations, while at the same time it can cross boundaries and frontiers); the medical aspect (because it implies the exercise of the body), the legal aspect (because without universal rules, competition is not possible); the religious aspect (because it has religious roots and - as some claim - has become a modern religions).

In this perspective, sport appears as something all encompassing, universal, and of immense cultural resonance with respect to many other human activities. In fact, as sport grows in popularity, in practice, and in media presence, it is becoming a point of convergence for diverse interests, an attractive professional field of interest, a multidisciplinary school of different ways of thought, a huge business network, and a phenomenon of our epoch. Furthermore, through its constant expansion, sport it cuts across and permeates significant sectors of individual and social life, soliciting and even manipulating new interests, tender numerous aspects, that were not present in the original and neutral state of athletic activity.

Before this imposing phenomenon of modern sport, the Church has not been afraid of confronting " in a sporting way " - if I may use such a term - this great challenge. The Church has formulated an original reflection with regards to sport. and has encouraged its proper practice, first in the area of education within the Church, and later within the greater realm of civil society.

It should be immediately noted here that the Church's " way of thinking " regarding sport, which began in an initial form and gradually developed with greater intensity and clarity, has come about by the wise intuition and the acute sensibility of the supreme pontiffs, independently of their personal involvement in sports or their predisposition for sporting activity.

In fact, the pontiffs throughout the 20th century have shown a special interest in sport, even if some of their discourses were only for a specific occasion. These discourses manifest an enlightened perception of the evident value that sport plays within a modern culture that has been shaped by rapid change in the wake of the industrial revolution and the subsequent changes in the customs and lifestyles of the masses, as well as the frantic quest by man to affirm his own subjectivity and individual freedom.

Regarding the sporting phenomena, the pontiffs have outlined a unique synthesis that, at first glance, does not seem to arise from any one school of thought. It is founded upon and guided by principles of the moral order pertaining to the physical well being and the supernatural purpose of the human person. They have noted the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits that come from the practice of sport, while, at the same time, they have underlined the risks and related dangers that derive from serious distortions of fundamental ethical norms.

Through the years. a sort of Church " doctrine " regarding sport has been emerging little by little, which is capable of interpreting sporting phenomena, in the light of the faith, and in connection to the general ethical principles of the natural and supernatural order. Yet, this set of teachings lass never been developed to the point of reaching a mature and organic synthesis in an official Church document.

Consequently, in the pontifical teachings of the 20th century from Pius X to John Paul II, and most recently with Pope Benedict XVI, we can find a homogenous and progressive " corpus " of sporting discourses, to which new content regarding the ethical, the cultural, and the practice of sport, continue to be added, with their emphasis on one theme or another, depending on the particular audience being addressed and their social-cultural context.

A preliminary analysis of these papal texts reveals no immediate or explicit intention to develop an organic formulation of the thought of the Church regarding sport in a systematic way. In fact, each pontifical intervention was made within a particular ecclesial context, and deter- mined in great part by the specific characteristics of the audience, and often tied to a particular circumstance or the celebration of a particular event or activity within the Church or within society as a whole.

Consequently, these exterior factors have determined the quality of these pontifical addresses, in as much as they were restricted by time from fully developing a theme, or often limited to essential or practical indications, frequently sparse in biblical or theological references, and tailored to the audience being addressed.

For the present task at hand, that of presenting a vision of sport in the light of the Magisterium of the Church, I want to mention one word about the method I will employ. Instead of sticking to a strictly diachronic progression, I will proceed synchronically. That is, instead of tracing the development of the Magisterium of the Church in a historical way, I prefer to order this development according to the major themes of general hermeneutic interest. This choice will favour a more synthetic understanding of the essential points of the " thought " of the pontiffs, over and above the precise historic moment in which each pontifical discourse was delivered.

A new direction for sport in light of the council

This method should not prevent us from seeing how a certain turning point came about in this development, even if the substance of the papal teaching maintained its overall continuity. We can see this in the wake of the intense theological and pastoral development of the Second Vatican Council. It was there, within the broader context of the relationship between the Church and the world, that the Church examined the sporting phenomenon in order to determine the emerging factors produced by these cultural changes. The Council reflected on the urgent need for spiritual development of trainers and athletes.

It discussed the manifestations of those things that degrade sport, such as violence, doping, and commercialization. These are complex phenomena, fruit of an osmosis between sport and society, that require further reflection and study.

The Council marked a turning point and revealed a wider vision on the part of the Church towards sports. The perspective of the Council evaluates the new complexities of sport today with all of its multifaceted elements which can no longer be contained by the explicit canons of scholasticism due to their complexity and breadth.

Sport is now a global reality that intertwines a countless number of social, economic, and even medical-pharmaceutical components. It is now enhanced by technology, and has made its triumphal entry into the field of television.

Because of this, the world of sport is now seen in a new perspective. The player, once the only protagonist, is now subjected to the contradictions that these external factors impose on sport, such as the massive investments of sponsors, the embellishment of the game in order to appeal to the mass of spectators, or the media driven time constraints of the game itself. The end result is that the player himself often feels like a prisoner in his own game.

Both the athlete and his profession are undergoing an anthropological and aesthetical metamorphosis. Little by little, his former status as a player - one who once trained anonymously - has been converted into that of the superstar of the stadium and a media celebrity. The athlete has become a hero, honored and worshipped as the unique object of the spasmodic outbursts of the crowds of fans who hold him up as if he were a mythic figure to imitate. Drawing upon not only his personal success, but also on the huge success of this business, the athlete has become a " new product " subject to the laws of consumer consumption. Sophisticated and attractive as an elite public celebrity. the athlete is always " in form " and continually in the spotlight.

As the popularity of sport increases its influence over the masses, the attraction of its success tends to turn sport into a gimmick, a mere pretence that can easily draw millions of people whether spectators, consumers, or venders, who, without any critical eye, swallow this tip in a process that is ever more void of any real significance or value.

During the work of the Council, and in particular when drawing up the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, the topic of sport entered the discussion for the first times. The debate concluded with the decision to incorporate this topic into paragraph 61 of the chapter entitled, " The proper development of culture ". In this number, the Council recognized that " physical exercise and sport help to create harmony of feeling even on the level of the community as well as foster friendly relations between men of all classes, countries, and races ".

This fact assumes historical relevance and reveals a new approach as it situates sport among those activities which are at the very heart of a culture. This placement, while offering sport unexpected attention, at the same time enabled a more precise, dynamic and critical interpretation of it that is in step with the rapid changes of the time. In this way, the new horizon opened by the Council led the Church right into the middle of the phenomenon of sport, together with its potential for good as well as its contradictions, facilitating a necessary dialogue, as well as an even more necessary " evangelisation " of this " new areopagus ".      

The Church's genuine interest in sport

Before this perspective, it is good to briefly pause to ask why the Church was, and continues to be concerned about sport. Certainly it is not for its own sporting interest or any other social interest. The Church is above all concerned about the human person: the profound destiny of humanity and the mission of revealing to all  people the only Saviour, Jesus Christ and the identification with his way of life as the path to salvation.

  With the specific reference made to the " sports person " and to " sporting activity ", the Church has expressed a wise and convincing theological and spiritual doctrine that overcomes the spiritual or material dualism that have often impeded an objective and comprehensive understanding of sport. At the same time, the Church provides concrete points of application regarding its practice.

The inquiry about the ultimate meaning of sport for the Church was expressly made by Pius XII. In an address to Roman athletes, Pius XII applied St. Paul's exhortation, " whether you eat or drink, what- ever it is that you do, do it all for the glory of God ( 1 Cor 10:31   ) to all physical activity and this consequently includes sport. In fact he boldly exclaims: " How can the Church not be interested in sport? " By this rhetorical question he intended to dispel the lurking opinions that rejected the idea that the Church could have any interest whatsoever in the practice of sport.

With this point well established, it can then be more readily stated that the Church " sees in sport a gymnasium of the spirit, a means to exercise moral education; and because of this it admires, approves, and encourages the practice of sport in its various forms, that of youth sports whose practice harmonically develops the body in its physical potential, as well as the competitive sport ". The Church's interest, then, is directed to man and the temporal dimension of his life. Motivated by a genuine care for the person, in both his or her physical and spiritual well-being, the Church also has concern for sport in as much as it is " ordered to the intellectual and moral perfection of the soul ".

To better understand the reason behind the Church's interest for sport, we will take a look at some of the most salient moments in which the Church has manifested this attention. It is not the mere question of " what does the Church think about sport ", as if the Church were simply a public opinion agency. No. Rather, the question must be " how does the Church realize her mission in sport? " in as much as the Church as a community of witnesses of the Risen Christ announces the message of salvation even within the world of sport.

The goal of sport is the good of the person.

One of the continual themes throughout the teaching of the Church regarding sport is the expression of utmost concern in safe-guarding the integrity of the human person. This is a line of thought that is rooted in Christian anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church, especially the principles of subsidiaries and solidarity. In light of the inalienable value of the dignity and integrity of the person as a unity of body and soul, the Church asks sport not only to respect the identity of the person, but also to allow the individual to develop his or her full potential with regard to God's plan for his or her life.  

In sport, the human body is the " instrument " ; the body is not an end in itself. Pius XII clarifies this in a noted discourse on the four purposed of sport, where he states: " sport and gymnastics have, as   their immediate purposes, that of the education, development, and strengthening of the body in its constitution and power of movement.

As their more remote purpose, you have the use made, by the soul, of the body so prepared, for the development of the interior or exterior life of the person; as their still deeper purpose, that of contributing to its perfection; and lastly, there is the supreme purpose of man as man, the goal common to every form of human activity - that of bringing man loser to God ". Outlining these fundamental " ends " enables one to better determine sport's global value for the Church. These four purposes of sport constitute an essential nucleus that can be understood in light of an underlying " theology of the body ". In fact, it is the theological and spiritual elaboration of this theme that engages a dynamic hermeneutic that draws from divine Revelation. From this we can deduce that the true theological motivation is founded on a Christian anthropology that is not in anyway juxtaposed to the original plan of God the Creator, but rather, substantially linked to it.

As Pius XII also noted: " The human body is, in its own right, God's masterpiece in the order of visible creation. The Lord has intended that it should flourish here below and enjoy immortality in the glory of heaven.   He has linked it to spirit in the unity of the human nature, to give to the soul a taste of the enchantment of the works of God's hands, to help it to see the Creator of them both in his mirror, and so to know, adore and love Him ".   Here the emphasis is placed on the value of the body and its role within God's plan and its auxiliary function with regard to the soul. In this way, sport itself becomes a precious instrument in promoting " the formation of the complete man and the perfect Christian who thinks and arts according to reason enlightened by the faith ".

With an even greater attention and sensibility to the conquests of modern scientific research, John Paul II made the following observation that places the person at the very centre of this activity. He states: " Sport, as you well know, is an activity that involves more than the movement of the body; it demands use of intelligence and the disciplining of the will. It reveals, in other words, the wonderful structure of the human person created by God as a spiritual being, a unity of body and spirit. Athletic activity can help every man and woman to recall that moment when God the Creator gave origin to the human person, the masterpiece of his creative work ".

  In synthesis. the Magisterium places the human person at the centre of sporting activity, by which his person becomes " perfected " through the simultaneous convergence of all of the human faculties.

The person is the irreplaceable, invaluable, and indispensable point of reference for every sporting activity. In this way, sport is directly and synthetically linked to the true identity of the person, as he or she was originally created, and destined for glory.

Sport in need of " redemption"    

Like other human actions, sport can be subject to ambiguous or negative uses that jeopardize its commitment to the integrity of the human person. Pontifical teachings clearly point out the fragility, weakness and ethical contradictions that are present not only in sport itself, but are also found in the person who plays sports and in sporting institutions.

We know well that the person who engages in sport is a sinner like anyone else, and this condition is revealed not only on an individual level but also on a structural level. The task at hand is not a question of simply identifying the " sins " of sport, but of discerning the good wheat from the weeds that are scattered throughout the vast field of sport with all of its complex and multiform activities in the light of an ethic that is rooted in revelation and the fundamental event of salvation.

Because of this, it is quite understandable that the attention of the Church towards the world of sport and athletes has always been characterized by its care to safeguard God's original plan for man which is his sanctification according to the mysterious design of God, manifested in the salvific mission of Jesus Christ.

Sin is present in sport as a sign of fallen human nature. If sport can be seen as a " metaphor of life ", it is also accompanied by deviations which appear as cracks in a mirror. These reveal the pressing need for what some have called the " conversion of sport ". Sport, which makes up a part of the " all " of that humanity which has been called to salvation in Jesus Christ, is also in need of redemption. Based on the Pauline doctrine of the body, the Pontiffs have often expressed a vigorous appeal for athletes to be aware that they are " temples of the   Holy Spirit " and to " glorify God in their bodies " (Cf. 1 Cor 6:   13-20), exercising a prophetic witness through their good example.

An example of such an appeal was the prayer made by John Paul II at the end of his homily during the Sports Jubilee of 2000, in which the   Holy Father prayed with these words: " Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! " The Pope's example of prayer was a compelling lesson for the vast crowds of sports men and women packed into Rome's Olympic stadium. He then directed everyone's focus to Christ, the " true athlete of God ", underlining his intention of proposing Jesus as the effective model for our lives. In the words that followed, the Holy Father referred to Christ as " the more powerful one (cf. Mk 1 :7), who for our sake confronted and defeated the " opponent ", Satan, by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus inaugurating the kingdom of God. He teaches us that to enter into glory we must undergo suffering " (cf. Lk 24: 26, 46). By means of the incarnation, sport too is included in the saving work of the redemption, as the very action of a redeemed body.

The Holy Father went on to note that while it is important to identify and promote the many positive aspects of sport, it is only right to also recognize the various transgressions to which it can succumb. He went on to say that " the educational and spiritual potential of sport must make believers and people of good will united and determined in challenging every distorted aspect that can intrude, recognizing it as a phenomenon opposed to the full development of the individual and to his enjoyment of life. Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry. There must be a willingness to ask forgiveness ".

The Church clearly recognises the inherent value of sport, but, at the same time, expresses concern for the true authenticity of sport.

The Church is attentive to the possible deviations that contradict sport's true purpose and, worse still, that harm the integrity of the per- son. Because of this, sport is also placed within the realm of human activities that are in need of salvation.

Sport as an ascetic path to human and Christian virtues

Sport's ascetical dimension has always been recognized and the pontiffs have affirmed this often and in numerous ways. As John Paul II noted, " Christian life is like a rather demanding sport, combining all a person's energies to direct them towards the perfection of character, towards a goal which realizes in our humanity 'the measure of Christ's gift' (Eph 4:7) ''. They have exhorted athletes to pursue the sporting ideal, but above all, they have invited them to broaden their perspective of sport so as to include the pursuit of the moral ideals of excellence, and thus reach their integral perfection.

Ancient philosophy taught that " the truth is always in the soul ".   Accordingly, every human action cannot but manifest the ontological nature of man, since this is the goal towards which all his actions are ultimately directed is a spiritual being. When sport harmoniously enters this process of authentic personal growth, and does so as a practice that is conscious of reaching its goal only through a gradual process of learning that is both interior and exterior, it consequently engages the interior dynamism of " arete " or virtue, as a habit that is practiced in personal and social life.

But, virtue is not reached without acknowledging the soul and without acting accordingly and coherently with this knowledge. Consequently, virtue is the result of an active apprenticeship, just as a skill is acquired in sport. In fact, the relationship between virtue and sport is richly revealed and affirmed in the experience of sport that engages the entire person in all of their faculties and at all levels, whether at the highest level, or the most basic. For it is in playing that we most easily learn how to dominate our passions and orientate them towards a higher goal.

Because of this, Pius XII taught that the discipline of sport becomes a kind of exercise of human and Christian virtues. In like manner, Paul VI saw sport as a way to teach moral education and asceticism, stating: " There is not a better school for teaching fairness than the exercise of sport for it despises any attempt of cheating as unsportsmanlike. And what asceticism ! What an antidote against laziness, indolence and idleness. There is no teacher more demanding than that of sport ! How much discipline, how much sacrifice, how much self dominion, courage, and tenacity is required! " Thus we can say that there can be found in these writings on sporting activity an explicit reference to asceticism and the moral life, in as much as these are present in the intentionality of Christian action.

In this way, sport assumes in its historical and anthropological dimension a model of moral action that is especially related to the gratuitous gift of self.

Sport as a valuable educational tool

The Church's teaching regarding sports activity is above all centred in a systematic way on its educational potential and finds in it a means for the integral development of the person. This line of thought is in fact common to all of the papal discourses, whether those that pinpoint sport as a privileged " instrument " for the betterment of the person, or, those that seek to protect the human person from deviations in sport that involve ends that are merely consumerism, materialistic, or even abusive to the body.

The goal then is to awaken by means of a sport that is ever more attentive and responsible. a consciousness of the value of the body in reference to the complete fulfilment of oneself in light of salvation.

That is, it seeks to take into consideration both the bodily dimension while at the same time being attentive to the promptings of the spirit and above that these are two components that constitute one and the same person. It is precisely because of this, that the Church tends to include sporting activity as in integral part of its pedagogical program.

The primary objective is not simply to foster sports activities for their own sake, but to provide the conditions for building integral characters who can face the drama of life. In fact, when viewed within a moral perspective, life becomes a competition, a fight and a challenge.

In this sense. the teachings of the Magisterium reveal an educative potential of sport that gradually develops in the very practice of this activity. This potential is further verified in their positive behaviour and the fostering of criteria aimed at the development of the subject's personality in accordance with their individual freedom.

Sport in a society of deep-seated changes The sportsman pope, John Paul II, magnificently elevated sport to a level that was never before considered by the Church. For this much venerated Pontiff, sport had become a " sign of the times ". By assigning sport this special category used during the Vatican II Council, he credits sport with a value of important significance in the promotion of the person and opened the door to subsequent reflection in the relationship between sport and spirituality. " In recent years [sport] has continued to grow even more as one of the characteristic phenomena of the modern era, almost a " sign of the times " capable of interpreting humanity's new needs and new expectations ". By placing  sport in the category of a phenomenon of the modern era, the Pope also recognizes its cultural and civil value.

In this way, sport conveys a meaning that exceeds the mere practice of sport, in as much as it is capable of interpreting life and giving it new meaning in relation to the mystery of the human person. Consequently, the spiritual dimension of sport is fully recovered not as something added on to sport from the outside, but rather, as an intrinsic quality that the sports person manifests in and through the visible gestures of sport.

On the other hand, the global and cultural dimension of sport reveals a new perspective that entails new consequences for human interaction as well as with respect to the many functions inherent to it.

Sport, with a language composed of physical gestures that are universally comprehended, crosses over national barriers and constitutes a common denominator that is capable of uniting the entire human community. Because of this, John Paul II urged those involved in this activity " to make sports an opportunity for meeting and dialogue, over and above every barrier of language, race or culture.. ". He went on to point out that " Sports, in fact, can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love ".

Such indications on the part of the Magisterium requires us to seek a deeper understanding of the new global dimension of sport and the consequent openness on the part of the Church to these phenomena. This demands careful observation in order to discover the opportunities that present themselves when one contemplates the complex " galaxy " that sport creates. It demands that we look beyond sport itself, to that which it represents symbolically, and to the opportunities that spring up around sport and as a consequence of it.

In this way, the intuition that sport is a cultural phenomenon and an event rich in symbolism and new significance that is valid for the entire world, clearly stands out and calls for a new response. In fact, it calls for a rethinking of a " philosophy " of sport that is adequate for today's multiethnic, multicultural society in the midst of globalization.

Because of this, sport needs a time of conversion. It needs to rediscover itself by means of the exercise of an ongoing spiritual and cultural self-analysis. The essential lines laid out by the pontiffs are directed towards the recovery of a " soul " in sport that can reactivate the mental and spiritual dimensions of the athlete and render sport more capable of realizing its prominent role of transforming society.

Here the words of John Paul II assume a prophetic tone as well as mark a path to follow: " Sport, without losing its true nature, can answer the needs of our time: sport that protects the weak and excludes no one, that frees young people from the snares of apathy and indifference, and arouses a healthy sense of competition in them; sport that is a factor of emancipation for poorer countries and helps to eradicate intolerance and build a more fraternal and united world; sport which contributes to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person. " The deeper meaning that emerges from the words of the Pontiff shed light on a double challenge that faces sport. On one hand, there is the task of making use of the universally recognized potential of sport in all its facets to build a more just and fraternal society. On the other hand, lies the task of safeguarding a sport that is rich in human values and determined to reform itself so as to better respond to the integral well being of the person. In a world of profound change, and in need of values and meaning, these are two very concrete tasks that form the basis of a renovated ethical program for the entire sport system. Here, each and every sports person, organism, and institution have their own proper and specific responsibility that they must carry out to the degree in which they bear a social and cultural relevance on sport.

The Church " takes the field " From here we deduce the essential legitimacy of the Church's new task. If the Church seems so interested in sport it is because of the wise and far-sighted discovery of sport as an authentic and appropriate space for special pastoral care and attention.

We can see the Church's desire to dialogue with the world of sport and to encourage this practice. This dialogue has been initiated for good reason. Paul VI perceived the urgency of opening up the doors of the Church to the modern world and saw in sport a field that the Church needs to consciously enter. It does so " with the soul filled with goodness " and because of the mission of " taking all that is beautiful, harmonious, balanced and strong in our human nature and elevating it ". He also invited those involved in sport to " discern the criteria for determining its true values and with this same criteria to be committed to engage in dialogue with the world today ". In this way, the Church gazes at the complex sporting phenomena, ready and willing to listen to the language of sport and to respond accordingly with a Christian vision that accepts, assumes, perfects and elevates the good in sport, intoning, in this way, an authentic song of life.

Dialogue between the Church and sport produces a specific and competent response on the part of the Church: a " pastoral ministry of sport " that seeks nothing less than a true and proper evangelization.

Encouraging us to take action in the field of sport. John Paul II stated: " the Church must be on the front line in order to develop a pastoral ministry that knows how to respond to the needs of sportsmen and to, above all, promote a sport that can create conditions for a life rich in hope ".

From here emerges a new approach to sport on the part of the Church. It is not limited to simply encouraging a practice of sport that is in accordance with human and Christian virtues. Rather, this new approach seeks to announce the gospel of salvation from " within " this modern areopagus of sport in order to achieve a motivated and self- conscious   " conversion "   

Conclusion

Throughout the twentieth century, the consistent teaching of the pontiffs regarding sport has come to form a complex vision that can be synthetically outlined in three phases: the first is the identification of the ethical content in the practice of sport ; the second phase, consequently, is that of specifying the inherent and constitutive criteria used in forming and educating the person by means of sporting activity ; and lastly, that which directly involves the mission of the Church, the exploration of the multiple ways in which sport can be a vehicle for the proclamation of the gospel.

The Magisterium, while it does not enter into the specific questions of each singular sport's discipline, it nonetheless seeks to point out the opportunities and the potential within sport to contribute to the ongoing project of the integral development of the person, to promote the good example of champions, and to reflect on the role of sport within a society that has ever more global horizons. In conclusion, we can affirm that the " corpus " of papal discourses offers the nucleus for a vision of sport that values sporting activity in all of its complexity and in its totality, whether in the natural order, or in the light of the " history of salvation ".

In synthesis, the Church seeks to give proper meaning to the physical dimension of sport, revealing its " humanizing " function. Above all, it seeks to favor sport's potential to elevate the person while at the same time pointing out that it has its limits and must be at the service of God and remain relative to the other higher values and to the superior destiny of the human person.