Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to them.
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Dear Members of the European Olympic Committees, good morning!
I am happy to receive you on the occasion of your Assembly. In particular, I greet your President and the President of the International Committee, and I thank them for their words. Through you, I would like to express my appreciation to all those who are committed at the European level to foster the development of persons and social fraternity through sport.
The bond between the Church and sport is a beautiful reality, which has been consolidated in time, because the ecclesial community sees in sport a valid instrument for the integral growth of the human person. The practice of sport, in fact, stimulates a healthy overcoming of self and one’s selfishness; it trains to the spirit of sacrifice and, if well begun, fosters loyalty in interpersonal relations, friendship, and respect for the rules. It is important that all those concerned with sport at different levels promote those human and religious values that are at the base of a more just and solidaristic society. This is possible because the language of sport is universal, it goes beyond boundaries, languages, races, religions and ideologies; it has the capacity to unite persons, fostering dialogue and hospitality. This is a very precious resource!
I wish to encourage institutions and organizations, such as yours, which propose, especially to the young generations, sports itineraries of formation to peace, to sharing and to coexistence between peoples. It is typical of the sports activity to unite and not divide! To build bridges and not walls. The five intertwined rings, symbol and flag of the Olympic Games, also represent the spirit of brotherhood that must characterize the Olympic manifestation and sports competition in general. When sport is considered only according to economic parameters or to obtain victory at any cost, the risk is run of reducing the athletes to mere merchandise from which to draw profit. The athletes themselves enter in a mechanism that overwhelms them, they lose the true sense of their activity, the joy of playing that attracted them as youngsters and that drove them to so many real sacrifices to become champions. Sport is harmony, but if the immoderate pursuit of money and success prevail, this harmony is broken.
You, as Olympic directors, are called to foster the educational function of sport. We are all aware of the great need to form sportsmen animated by rectitude, moral rigor and an active sense of responsibility.
I formulate to you all a sincere good wish for your work and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon you, upon your families and upon all those who will take part in the next Olympic Games and in your other initiatives. Thank you.
Now I would like to give you all, to all those whom you represent, to the whole world of sport, to those who are preparing for the next Olympic Games, the Lord’s blessing, for all of us a blessing full of grace and full of love. Let each one of us pray to the Lord, asking for this blessing. May the Lord bless and protect you. Amen!