CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II highlighted the moral values that sport fosters, when he received the players, trainers and directors of Real Madrid, the champion soccer club of Europe.
The Pope, for whom soccer was a passion in his youth, explained that the Church “considers sports as an instrument of education when it fosters high human and spiritual ideals; when it forms youth in an integral way in values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, solidarity and peace.”
“Surmounting differences of cultures and ideologies, sports offers an ideal occasion for dialogue and understanding among peoples, for building the desired civilization of love,” the Pope added.
The Holy Father, who received the Spanish team at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, appealed to Real Madrid “to put into practice these values, based on the dignity of the human person, in face of possible interests that might darken the nobility of sports itself.”
In his greeting, club president Florentino Pérez thanked the Holy Father for the honor of being able to participate in such a special meeting, and introduced each one of the players of the first team and the rest of the club members.
As a gift, Real Madrid gave the Pope a replica of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, an unnumbered shirt signed by all the players, and a Real Madrid supporter’s membership card.
At the end of the audience, Roberto Carlos, a Brazilian member of the team, summed up the squad’s feelings. “It is a great joy to be here. All the Brazilians would have liked to have come, and I am representing them. It is very important to be able to be here.”
Real Madrid came to Italy to begin to defend the title of European Champion against Rome, in a match scheduled for Tuesday.