Pope Francis has called for athletes to remember they have a mission to be role models.
Speaking to the Italian Tennis Federation this afternoon in the Vatican, the Pope told its members that to those who admire them, they must be valid models, worthy of being imitated.
The Pope reminded them that sport is one of three paths, three fundamental pillars for children, for youngsters and young people: school and family education, sport and work.
“One grows well on these three pillars,” he said. “When all three are there, school, sport and work, then the conditions exist to develop a full and genuine life, thus avoiding those dependencies that poison and ruin one’s existence.”
The Church is interested in sport, he said, “because man is at her heart, the whole man, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person.”
The Argentine Pontiff called on all sports directors, trainers and workers to always give good witness of human values.
Acknowledging tennis is a very competitive sport, Francis asked them to avoid letting the pressure to be able to obtain significant results ever drive them to cheat.
“How awful and sterile is that victory that is obtained cheating the rules and deceiving others!” he said.
“The Apostle Paul uses the example of an athlete to illustrate an important characteristic of human existence and he says this: ‘Do you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it!'” the Pope recalled.
In a certain sense, Francis continued, “this is your daily experience in tennis.” However, he pointed out that Saint Paul is referring to the challenge of giving an ultimate meaning to life itself.
Given this, Francis urged each of them to get involved not only in sport –” as you already do and with optimum results –, but in life, in the search for the good, the true good, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm.”
“Get involved with others and with God, giving the best of yourselves, spending your life for what really is worthwhile and lasts forever.”
“Put your talents at the service of the encounter between persons, of friendship, of inclusion,” the Pope said.
Francis concluded, asking them to join him in a Hail Mary, asking them to pray for him, giving his greetings to their families, and imparting his Apostolic Blessing.
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