Today Pope Francis received in audience directors and athletes of the Italian National Olympic Committee (I.N.O.C.), on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation.
Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address.
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Dear Friends of I.N.O.C.
I give you all my cordial greeting and thank the President for his courteous words. In our day, sport is at home in the Church, and this meeting proves it: we celebrate your centenary together, an important anniversary for Italian sport.
For 100 years the Italian National Olympic Committee has promoted, organized and guided sport in Italy, not only in regard to that great global event, which the modern Olympics are, but also appreciating the popular, social, educational and cultural dimension. It does so inspired in the cardinal principles of the Olympic Charter, which puts among its principal objectives the centrality of the person, the harmonious development of man, the defense of human dignity, and, in addition, “that of contributing to the building of a better world, without wars and tensions, educating young people through sport practiced without discriminations of any sort … in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and loyalty” (International Olympic Committee, Olympic Charter, 6).
Sport has always fostered a universalism characterized by fraternity and friendship between peoples, concord and peace between nations – by respect, tolerance and harmony of diversities. Every sports event, especially the Olympics — where representatives with different histories, cultures, traditions, faiths and values, confront one another — can become, through an ideal strength, capable of opening new sometimes unexpected paths in overcoming the conflicts caused by the violation of human rights.
The Olympic motto — “Citus, altius, fortius” – is not an incitement to the supremacy of one nation over another, of one people over another people, and much less so of exclusion of the weakest and less protected, but represents the challenge to which we are all called, not just athletes: that of making the effort, the sacrifice, to reach the important goals of life, accepting one’s own limitations without letting oneself be blocked by them, but seeking to overcome oneself.
I invite you to continue on this path. I encourage the educational work you do in schools, as well as in that of the world of work and of solidarity, to foster a sport that is accessible to all, attentive to the weakest and to the most precarious bands of society; an inclusive sport of persons with different disabilities, of foreigners, of those who live on the fringes and are in need of places of encounter, socialization, sharing and play; a sport not geared to the useful but to the development of the human person, with a gratuitous style.
I know for starters that I.N.O.C., always imitated more than other National Committees, has welcomed in its organization the figure of the Olympic Chaplain. It is a friendly presence that wishes to manifest the closeness of the Church, also stimulating in sports a strong sense of spiritual competition. In fact, there are some typical words of sports that refer to the spiritual life. This was also understood by Saints, who were able to interpret the passion, enthusiasm, constancy, determination, challenge and limitation with their eyes projected to another, beyond themselves to the horizon of God. Saint Paul invites to train oneself in godliness, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Dear friends, I wish you every good for your service. Best wishes also for Rome’s candidacy to host the 2024 Olympic Games. I will not be there! May the Lord bless you all and your families. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Happy Christmas![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]