VANCOUVER, British Columbia, FEB. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Canadian bishops’ conference is welcoming athletes to his country for the Winter Olympics and underlining the human values of the games.
Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jerome, Quebec, stated this in a Feb. 4 letter to the athletes and visitors of the 2010 Olympics, which began today in Vancouver.
“As people from every race, creed and culture come to British Columbia for this celebration of athletic excellence, we hope that all of us will be reminded of the values that the games convey,” he said.
The prelate underlined the official Olympic motto, adopted in 1894: “Citius, altius, forties” [Faster, higher, stronger].
“Originally the idea of Dominican Father Henri Didon to motivate the students in his gym class to strive for personal excellence, this motto has been inspiring world-class athletes ever since,” he explained.
The bishop expressed the hope that “all of us — whether Catholics or members of other faith traditions, as well as all people of goodwill — apply the same principle to our own lives, so together we may grow into world-class human beings.”
He acknowledged that “amid the excitement of these athletic activities it can be easy to get caught up in national pride and competitiveness.”
“While this can be somewhat understandable,” Bishop Morissette affirmed, “we should also reflect on the goal of the Olympic movement: ‘to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.'”
He recalled the words of Benedict XVI before the 2008 Summer Games, when the Pontiff expressed the hope that the Olympics will “offer the international community an effective example of coexistence among people of the most different provenances, with respect for their common dignity.”
Catholics share this hope, the prelate added. “To borrow the words of the Pope, may sports once again be a pledge of friendship and peace among peoples!”
He stated the hope that the visitors will “discover some of the richness of the Catholic Church in Canada, and that as you return home you will keep all Canadians in your hearts and prayers.”
The bishop concluded by assuring the visitors of welcome “by Catholic parishes and communities before, during and after the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.”
Archbishop Michael Miller of the Vancouver Archdiocese expressed these similar sentiments of welcome in a letter he wrote to the athletes and visitors.
The archbishop invited the participants to “consider visiting one of the archdiocese’s downtown hospitality centers for athletes,” including one site at the cathedral and another across from the BC Place Stadium.
He pointed out that the Winter Olympics, which will run through Feb. 28, will coincide with the beginning of Lent, as Christians “begin their journey on the path towards Easter.”
Thus he sent an invitation to the visitors to attend the Feb. 17 Ash Wednesday Mass at one of the archdiocese’s churches, “and of course, to celebrate Sunday Mass with us while you are here.”
The Vancouver archbishop also collaborated with other prelates from British Columbia and the Yukon to write a pastoral letter addressing the danger of human trafficking, especially during the international gathering for the Olympics.
The letter, released Jan. 27, noted that “human trafficking is regarded by some as the fastest growing form of transnational organized crime.”
“When the victims are treated as objects and commodities, such trafficking entails a loss of their God-given dignity as human persons,” it added.
The bishops called on the faithful to raise awareness on this social ill, and to join with “all men and women of good will to eliminate the mentality that treats human beings as commodities of commercial exploitation and as objects for pleasure.”
They also addressed victims of exploitation, stating, “The Church walks with you today in solidarity.”
The letter noted that “the representatives of more than a million consecrated men and women worldwide and the global confederation of 162 Catholic aid organizations are formally committed to your practical assistance and to advocacy on your behalf.”
The bishops affirmed, “We promise you pastoral care, and we will continue to work with all people of good will to ensure that your human dignity is always respected.”
Along with the letter, the Vancouver Archdiocese is offering several resources on its Web site related to the issue of human trafficking.
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On the Net:
Bishop Morissette’s letter: http://www.cccb.ca/site/content/view/2756/1152/lang,eng/
Pastoral letter and resources: http://www.rcav.org/ht/