Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today when he received in audience a delegation of Special Olympics athletes who will represent Italy at the Los Angeles World Games, planned from July 25 to August 2.
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Welcome, and thank you for having this meeting before the Los Angeles World Games, in which you will take part at the end of July. I hope it will be a good adventure!
The world of sport is accustomed to look at the Church with trust and attention, because it knows that it is possible to work together to restore to sports its true meaning: an educational, ludic and recreational meaning, but also its cultural and social dignity. You know this well, who have chosen sport as an experience of promotion and growth, in the presence of a condition of fragility and limitations. In fact, The Special Olympics project involves — by Statute — persons with different abilities for an improvement of their quality of life.
It is good and significant that youngsters and adults find in sports training and in participation in competition, also international, stimulation to live their life fully. It is certainly a challenge, and you have accepted it and “taken to the field”! I encourage you to continue in your commitment to help one another to discover your potentialities and to love life, to appreciate it with all its limitations and especially in its beautiful aspects. Never forget beauty: the beauty of life, the beauty of sport, the beauty that God has given you. Sport is a very appropriate way for this discovery, to open oneself up, to come out of one’s oneself and get involved. Thus one learns to participate, to overcome oneself, to make an effort together. And all this helps to become active members of society and also of the Church; and it helps society itself and the Church to overcome all forms of discrimination and exclusion.
Please, remain faithful to this ideal of sport! Do not let yourselves be “contaminated” by the false sports culture, that of economic success, of victory at any cost, of individualism. It is necessary to rediscover “amateur” sport, that of gratuitousness, sport for the sake of sport. It is necessary instead to protect and defend sport as an experience of human values, yes of competitions, but in loyalty, in solidarity — always dignity for every person! No one must feel excluded from the practice of sport. And to achieve this objective the generous and agreed action is necessary of the different institutional and social realities.
I hope you will live the forthcoming World Championships in a joyful, passionate and serene way. Have a good time and make beautiful friendships with brothers and sisters of the whole world! I invoke upon each one of you, upon your families and upon all those who accompany you in this sports adventure the Lord’s blessing. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]