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For the occasion participants were received in audience by the Pope this morning, at the Apostolic Palace in Castelgandolfo. This, the thirty-second FIMS world congress, is being attended by people from countries on the five continents, "a significant indication", the Holy Father said, "of the capacity for sports and athletic endeavours to unite persons and peoples in the common pursuit of peaceful competitive excellence".

Sometimes, however, success, fame, medals and the pursuit of money become the primary, or even sole, motive for those involved.

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It has even happened from time to time that winning at all costs has replaced the true spirit of sport and has led to the abuse and misuse of the means at the disposal of modern medicine". Indeed, St.

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Paul notes in his First Letter to the Corinthians that spiritual and athletic excellence are closely related, and he exhorts believers to train themselves in the spiritual life". I therefore pray for you and for those whom your work benefits, that your efforts will lead to an ever more profound appreciation of the beauty, the mystery and the potential of each human person, athletic or otherwise, able-bodied or physically challenged".

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Benedict XVI quoted words of Blessed John Paul II, who said that "the potentialities of sport make it an important instrument for the overall development of the person, and a useful factor for the construction of a more human society. Pope Benedict goes on: "Team sports such as football are an important way to educate people to respect one another including their adversaries, to show a spirit of personal sacrifice for the good of the entire group, and to respect the gifts of each member of the team; in a word, to overcome the logic of individualism and selfishness which often characterize human dealings, and so leave space for the logic of fraternity and love, the only thing capable of authentically promoting the common good, at all levels.

The Pope concludes his message by encouraging participants in the championships "to work to ensure that this event is experienced as an expression of the most noble human virtues and actions, in a spirit of joy and peace. With great pleasure I send a cordial greeting to you, to the secretary, to the collaborators of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, to the representatives of Catholic organizations that work in the world of sports, to those in charge of international and national sports associations and to all those taking part in the study seminar on the theme: "Sports, Education and Faith: For a New Stage in the Catholic Sports Movement," organized by the Church and Sport section of this dicastery.

Sport has a notable educational potential above all in the realm of youth and, because of this, it is of great Importance not only in the use of free time, but also in the formation of the person. Vatican Council II named it among the means that belong to the common patrimony of men and that are appropriate for moral perfection and human formation cf "Gravissimum Educationis," No. If this is true for sports activity in general, it is all the more so for that which is carried out in oratorios, in schools and in sports associations, for the purpose of ensuring a human and Christian formation to the new generations.

As I had the opportunity to remind recently, it must not be forgotten that "sports, practiced with passion and vigilant ethical sense becomes, especially for youth, training in healthy competitiveness and physical improvement, school of formation in human and spiritual values, privileged means of personal growth and of contact with society" Address to the participants of the Swimming World Cup, Aug. Through sports activities, the ecclesial community contributes to the formation of youth, offering an appropriate ambit for its human and spiritual growth.

In fact, when they are directed to the integral development of the person and are managed by qualified and competent personnel, sports initiatives reveal themselves as propitious occasions in which priests, religious and laity can become true and proper educators and teachers of life of young people.

In a coordinated formative action, Catholic leaders, technicians and operators must be considered experienced guides for adolescents, helping them to develop their own competitive potentialities without neglecting the human qualities and Christian virtues which make the person completely mature. In this perspective, I find it very useful that this third Seminar of the "Church and Sport" section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity focus its attention on the specific mission and the Catholic identity of sports associations, of schools and of oratories managed by the Church.

With these sentiments, I send to all my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. The believing player must look at the other not as an enemy. For us God is the great arbiter and Christian values are his guide. Sports thus become a small school in society. When the sportsman becomes a professional, he will have to compete not in the field of sport but with lawyers, doctors, chemists and physicians.

And thus he will be able to apply the values he learned as a youth playing sports. ZENIT: In your experience of work with young people, have you come across someone who discerned his vocation to consecrated life through the practice of sports? Sport is an excellent place for the young person to experience coexistence with others. The youngsters with whom I work belong to Christian families and their entering a dimension with others brings them closer to God.

Paul and sports. He referred much to sports, especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians; he made analogies with the Christian life. It is important to keep him in mind, especially now when we have just ended the Pauline year. He was a man with a vision who valued sport as a place and space of personal effort. So the essential values are blurred. I value it for that struggle, the effort of Daniel Larusso, played by Ralph Marcchio to learn when confronted with other youths of a Los Angeles gang who make a mistaken use of the practice of karate. It is a very educational film and, in fact, makes an analysis of two visions of sport which have been discussed in this seminar.

We live in a world where young people have no clear orientation and those who are in sports have their fixed goals and an activity on which they center their lives. The role of sports within and among societies can be traced to some of the earliest civilizations. However, never before has the practice of sport become as firmly established as today. Sport has become a mass phenomenon capable of engaging huge crowds on a grand scale, breaking geographic, racial, social, economic, political and cultural barriers.

Next year, the global community will once again come together to celebrate the ancient tradition of the Olympic Games, in its twenty-ninth modern edition in Beijing.

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  6. As the world prepares for such an important event, we are reminded of the role that sport can play in the life of every individual and society. Citius, Altius, Fortius. Sport practiced in a healthy and harmonious way is a means to bring together peoples of different cultures and traditions in a respectful and peaceful manner.

    Through greater use of sport as dialogue and encounter, the Greek tradition of Olympic Truce can give way to genuine and long-lasting peace. In fact, dialogue and encounter through sport holds great potential in the area of peace building and conflict prevention. While the rule of law and justice remain the foundation of durable peace, sport provides the tool for warring factions to come together for a common purpose.

    These moments of unity may be brief and at times fleeting, nonetheless they are an important reminder that in human experience there are many more things that bind us together than those that tear us apart. In this regard, my delegation notes with appreciation the work of the UN Office of Sport for Development and Peace in fostering this dialogue in conflict-ridden places, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia. We look forward to seeing a greater consolidation of its activity.

    Along with fomenting dialogue across cultures and fostering peace, sport can also serve as a means for greater personal and social development.

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    These values redound to the benefit of the greater community and help us understand the value of the common good over personal glory. Thus, we encourage sports figures to be models for youth and to help foster the positive values of sports. However, the world of sport continues to have authentic role models and generous protagonists who strive to reclaim the ideal of sport as a real school of humanity, camaraderie, solidarity and excellence. A renewed and widely shared emphasis on a human-centered approach to sport would help ensure that the important virtues learned through sports become one of the means for developing and fostering healthy and responsible human interactions.

    It works with schools, youth groups, amateur sports associations and athletic professionals in order to promote a healthy approach to sport and help young people understand the positive impact sport values can have on both the local and global community. The Olympic Creed reminds us that the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. May the Olympic Games contribute to the common struggle to make the world a better place for one and all, through the promotion of the inseparable and mutually re-enforcing values of peace, development and full respect for basic human rights.

    On the 7 and 8 of September , the " Church and Sport " Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity hosted an international seminar on the theme: "Sport: a pastoral and educational challenge. The aim of the seminar was to reflect on the role of the priest as a sports chaplain since he can serve as an initial door of entry for pastoral ministry to the growing world of sport, a world that encompasses both the professional and amateur level and that finds its culmination at the major sporting events.

    In this light, the chaplain emerged as one who is actively engaged in bringing the presence of Christ to the world of sport as both guide and friend to athletes and a bold witness to the Gospel and to the dignity of the human person engaged in sport.

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    An essential priority of pastoral work is that of bringing new generations closer to the faith, and this pertains especially to the youth who practice sports as this activity can and should be an educational and formative experience. Nonetheless, because today "every educational task seems more and more arduous and precarious due to the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic values of life and correct behavior to the new generations" Benedict XVI, Inaugural speech at the Diocese of Rome Convention, 11 June , and because sport itself at times loses its educational capacity, it was essential that this seminar reflect on these educational challenges and seek ways in which they could be overcome by those engaged in the pastoral ministry to sport.

    From this analysis, the sports chaplain was also seen as a potential guide for athletes who are immersed in the world of relativism and materialism, and where parents and educators often abdicate their personal responsibility in their instruction. Whereas the task of education passes through freedom, it also requires authority.

    Here the sports chaplain can provide an authoritative voice that is all the more convincing as he gains the respect of athletes through genuine service that entails spending time with them and showing a sincere interest in their good. In fact, it was noted that whereas coaches, fellow players, and even parents can have a vested interest in only the sporting success of the player, the chaplain is there exclusively for their ultimate good regardless of the outcome of their performance.

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    Coaches, parents, sport directors and volunteers can and must contribute to recovering the formative dimension of sport, and they can use the opportunities offered by sport for the " socialization of faith. The seminar was an opportunity for chaplains of Olympic teams and those involved in the organization of large sporting events to have an initial exchange of ideas and to discuss initiatives and ways of working together suited to their specific ministry.

    We are grateful for the generous collaboration and wide range of experiences that the participants and speakers from around the world brought to the table. Speaking German, the Holy Father told them that "when sport is practiced in the right spirit, and with respect for dignity, it helps to promote the development of the person.

    Even when sport is practiced at high levels, it is important to maintain an inner harmony between body and spirit in order not to reduce it to a mere search for results. All virtues," he said, "for which you must train yourselves in daily life.

    On the subject of sports men and women as a model for the young, Benedict XVI pointed out how, "in a period marked by a loss of values and a lack of orientation, athletes can provide powerful motivations to work in favor of good in the various areas of life, from the family to the workplace. Pope Benedict XVI December 7, told members of the Bolzano and Florence sections of the Italian Association of Referees that their presence gave him the opportunity, "once again, to underline the value of sport which, if practiced well, can become the privileged vehicle for an incomparable message of hope, promoting a culture of respect, loyalty and serene coexistence.

    The practice of sport, which dates back to the dawn of human history, has now become firmly established as a mass phenomenon without equal precedent.


    Today, sport is in the hands of an influential and lucrative "leisure industry" which produces dreams of power and success in millions of individuals. Sport is often experienced as a kind of "ecstasy", a way of evading the drabness of daily life. It has been said that in sport we can recover a euphoric sense of wholeness, autonomy and power that are often denied in the humdrum routine which is the destiny of most men and women. For many of our contemporaries sport has become a way of life, an essential element for meeting basic needs, such as self-esteem and self-fulfilment, and a factor that not only determines a sense of identity and belonging, but also the meaning of life itself.

    And that is not all: sport has become, in every respect, a surrogate for religious experience. Stadiums and gymnasiums are like temples to this "new religion". And this process, which is typical of our present age, is accompanied by radical changes in relations between people and their bodies. For we have moved beyond concern for personal health and personal grooming to the worship of the body and its physical dimension.

    The body has now become a raw material to be fashioned at will, following the absolute dictates of the current fad.

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    Our post-modern culture has become embroiled in a crisis that empties it of value only to fill it with the non-values that come from a nihilistic mentality that reduces the meaning of human life to an unbridled search for pleasure and consumption. This has far-reaching repercussions on the world of sport. Far from being used to achieve the healthy growth of the individual person, the practice of sport is increasingly threatening people; rather than directing them towards freedom, it is increasingly enslaving them, to themselves, to imposed fads and fashions, and to the interests which are concealed behind sports events.

    The economic dimension, which has been present in sport from the earliest times, is now predominant, with the result that sport is seen today as a branch of the economy in its own right.