(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with members of the Italian Tennis Federation, and used the encounter to speak about sport as an “educational experience.”
“There are three paths - three fundamental pillars - for children and young people: Education – in the school and in the family –, sport and work,” said Pope Francis.
“When we have all three - school, sport and work - then there exists the conditions to develop a full and authentic life, avoiding those dependencies that poison and ruin existence,” he said.
The Pope said the Church is interested in sport because the Church is concerned about the person - “the whole man” – and recognizes that sport affects the formation of the person, including his relationships and his spirituality.
“You athletes have a mission to fulfill: To be, for those who admire you, good role models,” said Pope Francis. “And also you managers, coaches and others working in sport: You are called to give a good witness to human values, practitioners of a sporting profession that is always fair and transparent.”
The Holy Father also said that despite the competitiveness of the sport, the pressure to win should never lead to “shortcuts”, such as doping.
“How ugly and sterile is the victory that is obtained by cheating and deceiving others!” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father suggested the athletes apply the words of the Apostle Paul to their lives: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.” (1 Cor 9:24)
“In a certain sense, this is your daily experience in tennis,” said Pope Francis.
“But St. Paul refers to the challenge of giving an ultimate meaning to life itself,” he continued.
“I would therefore urge each of you to get into the game, not only in sport - as you already do and with excellent results - but in life, the pursuit of the good, the true good, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm,” said Pope Francis.
“Get into the game with others and with God, giving the best of yourself, giving your life for what is of true value, and endures forever,” he said. “Put your talents in the service of encounter among persons, of friendship, of inclusion.”
(from Vatican Radio)