Here is a translation of the text of the Video-Message that the Holy Father Francis recorded, on the occasion of the Soccer World Cup, and was broadcast on Brazilian TV.
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THE HOLY FATHER’S VIDEO-MESSAGE
It is with great joy that I address all of you, lovers of soccer, on the occasion of the opening of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. I want to send a warm greeting to the organizers and participants, to each athlete and rooter, as well as to all the spectators that, in the stadium or through television, radio and the Internet, support this event which surmounts borders of language, culture and nation.
My hope is that, beyond the celebration of sport, this World Cup will be a celebration of solidarity among peoples. This implies, however, that the soccer competitions be considered for what they are deep down: a game and at the same time an occasion of dialogue, understanding, and mutual human enrichment. Sport is not only a form of entertainment but also — and I would say above all –an instrument to communicate values that promote the good of the human person and help in the construction of a more peaceful and fraternal society. We think of loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity. In fact, many are the values and attitudes fostered by soccer which are revealed important not only in the field, but in all aspects of existence, concretely, in the building of peace. Sport is a school of peace, it teaches us to build peace.
In this connection, I would like to underscore three lessons of sports practice, three essential attitudes for the cause of peace: the need to “train,” “fair play” and respect among the competitors. In the first place, sports teaches us that, to win, it is necessary to train. We can see, in this sports practice, a metaphor of our life. It is necessary to struggle in life, to “train,” to make an effort to obtain important results. So the sports spirit becomes an image of the necessary sacrifices to grow in the virtues that build a person’s character. If, for a person to improve, great and continuous “training” is necessary, how much greater effort must be invested to reach encounter and peace among individuals and “improved” peoples! It is so necessary to “train” much …
Soccer can and must be a school for the construction of a “culture of encounter,” which makes possible peace and harmony among peoples. And here a second lesson of sports practice comes to our aid: we must learn what “fair play” in soccer has to teach us. To play in a team it is necessary to think, in the first place, of the good of the group, not of oneself. To win, it is necessary to overcome individualism, egoism, all forms of racism, of intolerance, of the instrumentalization of the human person. It is not only in soccer that to be “stingy” constitutes an obstacle for a good result of the team; so, when we are “stingy” in life, ignoring the persons who surround us, the whole society is harmed. The last advantageous sports lesson for peace is the respect due among the competitors. The secret of victory in the field, but also in life, lies in respecting my fellow team member, but also my adversary. No one wins alone, either in the field or in life! May no one be isolated and feel excluded! Attention! No to segregation, no to racism! And, if it is true that at the end of this World Cup, only a national team will be able to raise the trophy cup as winner, by learning the lessons that sport teaches us, all will come out winners, strengthening the bonds that unite us.
Dear friends, I am grateful for the opportunity that was given to me to address these words to you at this time, particularly to Her Excellency, the President of Brazil, Mrs. Dilma Rousseff, whom I greet – and I promise my prayer that heavenly blessings upon all not be lacking. May this World Cup unfold with all serenity and tranquility, always in mutual respect, in solidarity and in fraternity among men and women who recognize themselves members of one family. Thank you very much![Original text: Portuguese] [Translation by ZENIT]