Pope Francis is no stranger to the sports world, and since his election as Pope, St. Peter’s Square has welcomed athletes of different sports. From soccer to basketball, and even the Vatican’s own cricket team, faith and sport are closer than they seem.
What’s symbolic about sports is that they are an international language, which is why some months ago, Pope Francis dedicated his world prayer intention to athletics. “He would like to ask to pray to make it possible that sports could make a culture of encounter. Sports is a unique tool to do this because it’s a universal language. It’s understood by everybody, everywhere, knows how to play soccer or basketball,” says Santiago Pérez de Camino, director of the Vatican’s Office of Church and Sport.
The office also promotes initiatives such as the Holy Land Marathon, which was used to promote peace between the Israelites and Palestinians. Referring to their most recent seminar on the role of coaches the director says, “We talked about the role of coaches in the formation of the new generations. Because sometimes the coach spends more time than a father or a mother or a priest with the young people.”