VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II highlighted the educational and solidaristic character of sports when he met with the directors, drivers and mechanics of the Ferrari Formula One World Champion team.
Two star drivers were present at today’s audience: German Michael Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
The Ferrari team took advantage of the occasion to give the Pope a miniature reproduction of the F2004 model with which Schumacher won his seventh world cup.
After congratulating his guests for the victory, the Holy Father said that these “sports and industrial results” are due above all “to enthusiasm, fruit of the spirit of community.”
The Pope sent greetings to all the workers of the Ferrari plant in Maranello, in northern Italy, who followed the audience live on television. John Paul II visited Ferrari in 1988, and went for a drive in one of its cars.
“Your presence offers me the opportunity to emphasize the importance of sports also in present-day society,” he said. “The Church considers sports activity, in which the rules are totally respected, a valid educational instrument, especially for young generations.”
“Continue cultivating this style of work, and make constant growth in solidarity one of your main objectives,” the Holy Father exhorted. “Thus you will spread the values of sport and will contribute at the same time to the building of a more just and solidaristic society.”
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, explained to the Holy Father that with this gesture, the drivers, mechanics and directors wished to thank him for his defense of human rights during his pontificate, putting himself in the “pole position on the highway of humanity.”
At the end of the audience, Schumacher said: “It is an enormous emotion, it is difficult to explain what one feels. It has been something truly special to receive the Pope’s greeting. In particular, it has been something very beautiful to see his strength.”