“Athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome. You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.”
Pope Francis said this as he addressed a delegation from the Special Olympics International in the Vatican this morning. The Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017, takes place in Styria, Austria, March 14-25.
Special Olympics is a worldwide movement of people, which establishes a new world of inclusion and community, where each individual is accepted and included, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities.
As the biggest international sport movement for people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics worldwide offers all year round training and competition opportunities in 32 different olympic disciplines for more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries.
In his address, Francis noted that sport is a passion for them, and recognized that they have prepared themselves with great dedication for this competition, following the Special Olympics athlete’s oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
In a way, the Pontiff noted, at the heart of all sporting activity, is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day.
“Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event – for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves – we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like! We can learn from you to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.”
Sport, he also noted, also helps us to spread a culture of encounter and solidarity.
“Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” he said, noting. “You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.”
“Every life is precious, every person is a gift and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying, “I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, and upon you, your families, and all participants, I invoke divine blessings. And, please, pray for me too. Thank you!”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
On the NET:
Special Olympics World Winter Games Official Website: http://www.austria2017.org/en/home
Special Olympics Website: http://www.specialolympics.org/Games/2017_World_Winter_Games.aspx