Pope to FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil: Sport Is a School for Peace

Sends Video Message for Start of Tournament

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Pope Francis has reminded all those of the FIFA World Cup 2014 that the attitudes and values they bring to the sports field should be carried out in all aspects of life, and has expressed his hope that the tournament will be a celebration of solidarity among peoples.

Recalling that the FIFA World Cup 2014 opens today in Brazil, last night in a video message addressed to the organizers, players and spectators, and broadcasted via a national network, the Holy Father recalled that football tournaments are “not only a game but also an opportunity for dialogue, comprehension and mutual human enrichment.”

“Sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also – and above all I would say – a tool for communicating values that promote the good of the human person and help to build a more peaceful and fraternal society,” he affirmed.

For the second time this week, the Argentine Pontiff has spoken on sports and their ability to offer crucial education. He spoke the first time Saturday to the Centro Sportivo Italiano.

“Let us think of loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing, solidarity. In fact,” he noted, “there are many values and attitudes fostered by football that are not only important on the field, but in all aspects of life, especially in building peace. Sport is a school for peace – it teaches us how to build peace.”

Francis’ video message went on to highlight three lessons that can be drawn from sports and which represent three essential attitudes for the cause of peace: the need to train, “fair play,” and honor among competitors.

“Firstly, sport teaches us that to win, you have to train,” he observed. “We can see in sport a metaphor for our lives. In life, you have to struggle, to ‘train’, to strive to obtain important results. Sportsmanship thus becomes an image of the sacrifices needed to promote the growth of those virtues that build character. If, for a person to improve, it takes dedicated and continuous ‘training’, how much effort needs to be invested to achieve encounter and peace between individuals and peoples! It is necessary to train hard.”

Discussing the second lesson, he continued, “Football can and should be a school for building a ‘culture of encounter,’ making peace and harmony possible among people. And here a second lesson from sport comes to our aid: the ‘fair play’ football can teach us. To play as a team, it is necessary to think first of the good of the group, not of oneself.” 

To win, the 77-year-old Pontiff said, one “must overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and the exploitation of the human person. Being greedy, hoarding everything for ourselves, is an obstacle to the successful outcome of a team, not only in football; when we are greedy in life, ignoring the people around us, the whole of society is harmed.”

The final, third lesson that sport can provide for peace is respect between competitors. “The secret of victory on the field – but also in life – is learning to respect not only my teammates, but also my opponents. No one wins alone, on the field or in life! No one should feel isolated or excluded,” he said. 

The Holy Father concluded by greeting the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and promising to pray for all. “May this World Cup take place with serenity and tranquility, always with mutual respect, solidarity and brotherhood among men and women who acknowledge each other as members of a single family.” (D.C.L.)

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On Zenit’s Web page:

Full translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-words-to-fifa-world-cup-2014

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