Pope to Refugee Athletes: May Your Courage Express a Cry for Peace

In letter to Olympic team, Pope insists that peace is possible, everything is lost with war

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Pope Francis has joined his voice to the many who are wishing the Refugee Olympic Team great success.
For the first time ever, the Olympics are featuring a team made up of refugees. The team is made up of 10 athletes competing in three sports. Half are refugees from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one is originally from Ethiopia.
The Holy Father, in a Spanish-language message, offered his best wishes, as well as noting his hopes that the athletes’ “courage and valor” would express a “cry for fraternity and peace.”
“May humanity, through you, come to understand that peace is possible, that everything is won with peace. And that everything is lost with war,” he wrote.
One of the Pope’s prayer intentions for this month is precisely “that sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.”
CNN reported that the International Olympic Committee decided in March to allow a team of refugees to compete.
“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said when he announced the selected athletes last month. “These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

Swimming for life

One of the athletes is 14-year-old Yusra Mardini. Not only does she swim competitively, her swimming skills have saved her life.
When she was escaping Syria via Turkey en route to the Greek island of Lesbos, the boat carrying some 20 refugees began to sink. She and her sister swam it to shore; she said that it took some three hours in the water.

Related: Read the Pope’s address when he visited a refugee camp on Lesbos

Now at the Olympics, she won her heat in the 100m butterfly but did not reach a time that was fast enough to advance in the competition. She will compete Wednesday in the 100m freestyle
The other Syrian on the team, Rami Anis, is also a swimmer.
The UN Refugee agency featured the members of the team here: http://www.unrefugees.org/2016/06/these-10-refugees-will-compete-at-the-2016-olympics-in-rio/

On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of Pope’s letter: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-letter-to-refugee-team-at-olympics/

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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