Pope: Sport a tool for encounter, formation, mission and sanctification
Francis issues a message to mark the publication of the new document by the Dicastery "Giving the best of yourself. On the Christian perspective of sport and of the human person". "Sports can open the way to Christ in those places or environments where, for different reasons, it is not possible to announce Him directly; and people, with their witness of joy, practicing a sport as a community, can be messengers of the Good News".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Sports as a “meeting place where people of all levels and social conditions come together", a "formative tool" and "means of mission and sanctification", is at the center the message that Pope Francis sent to Card. Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, on the occasion of the publication of the new document "Giving the best of yourself. On the Christian perspective of sport and of the human person", made public today.
The document, Francis writes, "aims to highlight the role of the Church in the world of sport and how sport can be a tool for meeting, formation, mission and sanctification".
Sport is "a meeting place where people of all levels and social conditions come together to achieve a common result. In a culture dominated by individualism and the gap between the younger generations and the elderly, sport is a privileged area around which people meet without distinction of race, sex, religion or ideology and where we can experience the joy of competing to reach a goal together, participating in a team, where success or defeat is shared and overcome. The need of the other includes not only our teammates but also the managers, the coach, supporters, the family, in short all those people who with commitment and dedication make it possible to arrive at 'giving the best of yourself’. All this makes sport a catalyst for community experiences, for the human family ".
Sport "is also a formative vehicle ". Indeed, young people, "look up to and are inspired by sportspeople! Therefore, all athletes, of any age and level, need to participate so that those who are part of the sports world are an example of virtues such as generosity, humility, sacrifice, constancy and joyfulness. In the same way, they should make their contribution with regard to group spirit, respect, healthy competition and solidarity with others ".
Finally, sport is "a means of mission and sanctification". For the Church, "called to be a sign of Jesus Christ in the world", "every opportunity is good to bring the message of Christ". "Sport can open the path to Christ in those places or environments where for various reasons it is not possible to announce it directly; and the people, with their witness of joy, practicing sport in a community form can be messengers of the Good News ".
"To give the best of oneself in sport is also a call to aspire to holiness". In fact, sport "is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to improve as people. Like the athlete during training, sports practice helps us to give our best, to discover our limits without fear, and to struggle to improve every day. In this way, "every Christian, to the extent that he sanctifies himself, becomes more fruitful for the world" (ibid., 33). For the Christian sportsman, holiness will therefore be living sport as a means of encounter, of forming a personality, of witnessing and proclaiming the joy of being a Christian with those around him".
The long document states that the reason for the Church's interest in and commitment to sport is that even in this activity the human being is central, made of body and spirit. All his activities must therefore be supported by virtue and quality, which allow him to rise and never fall into the dangers that can undermine every human activity.
The document therefore refers to that "doing your best" dear to Pope Francis, who especially invited young people to "settle for a tie" in life. "Sport rests on this value of commitment, of sacrifice, on the idea of overcoming our limits through hard work, without cheating, pursuing victory - but not at all costs - and at the same time, learning to manage defeat without allowing it to bring you down".
The document itself highlights: “ From the beginning of the modern era, the Church has expressed an interest in this phenomenon, as she appreciates its educational potential and also shares many values with sport. The Church has actively promoted the development of sportitself through organized and structured forms ". Having as its objective "not a Christian sport, but a Christian vision of sport". This means “without in any way undermining and invalidating the specific nature of sport, the heritage of Christian faith renders this activity free from ambiguity and deviations, facilitating its full realization". "Christianity is therefore not an “ethical quality mark” of sport, a label juxtaposed but external to it. Christianity is proposed as an added value that is able to help give fullness to the sporting experience".
Precisely in consideration of certain qualities inherent in sport, such as the spirit of sacrifice, the sense of responsibility, respect for the rules, the ability to work as a team, joy, courage, solidarity, harmony, sport must be seen as a means of promoting authentic values.
Therefore the Church feels and is the protagonist of the path of humanization through sport. In an era dominated by "a change accelerated by the technological and digital revolution", sports ministry wants to develop in each subject, practitioner or spectator, the set of good qualities and virtues that characterize a good sportsman, a good citizen and a good Christian.
And in the face of a prevailing individualism, sport "sport in this context can be counter-cultural in that it provides young people with the opportunity for face to face encounters with other youth, who at times have very different backgrounds from their own. While playing on a team, they learn how to deal with conflict with one another in a direct way, while engaging in an activity that means a great deal to them. They also have the opportunity to play against young people from other parts of their community, country or the world and so expand their range of human contacts. Such experiences can help young people to realize that they are a part of something larger than themselves and be a part of what gives meaning and purpose to their lives."
In conclusion, the document recalls what Pope Francis told the Italian sports center, in 2014, when he " Pope Francis encouraged his listeners and encourages us today to give the very best of ourselves, not only in sport, but in the rest of our lives as well: “As sportsmen, I invite you not only to play, like you already do, but there is something more: challenge yourself in the game of life like you are in the game of sports. Challenge yourself in the quest for good, in both Church and society, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm. Get involved with others and with God; Don’t settle for a mediocre “tie”, give it your best, spend your life on what really matters and lasts forever." (FP)
Here the full text of the document.