Here below is the text of a speech Pope Francis delivered Sept. 1 in the Paul VI Hall to pariticipants in an Interreligious Match for Peace which took place at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, that evening.
Dear friends, good evening!
I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Interreligious Match for Peace which will play tonight at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. I thank you because you have readily acceded to my desire to see champions and coaches from different countries and of different religions compete in a sporting event, to witness the feelings of brotherhood and friendship. My gratitude goes in particular to the people and organizations that have contributed to the realization of this event. I think especially of “Scholas Occurrentes,” which operates at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and the “Pupi Onlus Foundation”.
The game tonight will certainly be an opportunity to raise funds to support projects of solidarity, but above all to reflect on the universal values that football and sport in general can promote: loyalty, sharing, openness, dialogue, confidence in the other. These are values that are common to every person regardless of race, culture and creed. Indeed, the sporting event of this evening is a highly symbolic gesture to show that it is possible to build the culture of encounter and a peaceful world, where believers of different religions, preserving their identity – because when I said “regardless” this does not mean “leave aside “, no – believers of different religions, preserving their own identity, can live together in harmony and mutual respect.
We all know that sport, in particular football, is a human and social phenomenon that has so much importance and impact on today’s behavior and mentality. People, especially young people, look at you with admiration for your athletic ability: it is important to set a good example both on and off the field. In sports competitions, you are called to show that sport is a joy to live, play, celebrate, and as such should be evaluated through generosity, ability to forge bonds of friendship and openness towards each other. Even with your daily attitudes, full of faith and spirituality, humanity and altruism, you can witness in favor of the ideals of peaceful coexistence and civil society, for the building up of a civilization based on love, solidarity and on peace. And this is the culture of the encounter: to work like this.
May the football match tonight revive in those who take part the awareness of the need to engage ourselves because sport helps to make an effective contribution to the peaceful and fruitful coexistence of all peoples, excluding any discrimination of race, language, and religion. You know that to discriminate can be synonymous with scorn. Discrimination is a form of contempt, and you with this game today, will say “no” to any discrimination. Religions, in particular, are called to be a vehicle for peace and never for hate, because in God’s name we must always bring only love. Religion and sport, enacted in this authentic way, can collaborate and offer all of society eloquent signs of that new era in which nations “will not raise sword against another” (cf. Is 2,4) .
On this highly unusual and significant occasion that is the contest tonight, I want to deliver to you all this message: open your hearts wide as brothers to brothers! This is one of the secrets of life: to broaden the hearts of brothers to brothers, and is also the most profound and authentic dimension of sport. Thank you.[Original: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]