Pope’s Olympic message credits the power of sports
Pope Benedict XVI says he is praying that the London Olympics promote world peace and friendship — a message the Vatican is increasingly emphasizing as it focuses renewed attention on the positive role that sports can play in society.
But while the message Sunday may be new, sports have long been a mainstay for the Vatican. The first soccer game was played in the Apostolic Palace in 1521 and every year the Swiss Guards face off against the staff of the Vatican Museums in a tournament.
A new movie — “100 Meters From Paradise” — about a fictitious Vatican team at the London Games won a rave review in the Vatican newspaper, but the prospects of the world’s tiniest sovereign state actually fielding an Olympic squad are slim.
Oh sure, athletes abound among the Vatican’s clerics and cardinals: Pope John Paul II was an avid skier, and Benedict’s personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein has been known to play a mean game of tennis. The late head of the Vatican bank, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, took to the links at a Rome golf club and, in ancient times, many popes were accomplished game hunters.
Even Vatican guests have shown their athletic prowess. When foreign diplomats took refuge inside Vatican City during the World War II-era German occupation of Rome, the Chinese ambassador to the Holy See practiced his golf swing in the Vatican gardens, according to photographs in a new book “The Ears of the Vatican” by longtime Vatican reporter Bruno Bartoloni.
“Sports have always been appreciated in the Christian tradition,” said Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which has given ample space to Benedict’s renewed message about the good that sports can bring to society. [More]