SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN SPORTS CENTER
Saturday, 11 May 2019
Dear friends of the Italian Sports Center!
I am pleased to see you today, indeed to see you again, after our meeting five years ago, of which I have a beautiful memory. I greet your President, whom I thank for his words, and the Executives. And I greet all of you, boys and girls, and your coaches, referees and educators. You are celebrating the seventy-fifth birthday of your Association, which has more than one million two hundred thousand members, and brings together a large number of sports clubs and associations, as well as members and parochial sports groups and affiliated oratories, present in every part of Italy.
The competitions and activities that you organize, aimed in particular at the youngest, but open to all age groups, cover a large number of disciplines, more than a hundred! I would not even be able to identify such a large number of different disciplines, and this allows me to imagine the variety of your proposals and the immense fantasy of the world of sport, where everyone can find the specialty for which he feels most suited.
It is through this great commitment to sporting animation that the Italian Sports Center carries out its mission, that of offering young people, through sport, a healthy and positive lifestyle, based on the Christian vision of the person and of society. Sport, in fact, is a great school, on the condition that we live it in control of ourselves and in respect for others, in a commitment to improve ourselves that teaches dedication and perseverance, and in a competitive spirit that does not make us lose our smile and also train to accept defeats.
A great lesson of sport, which helps us to face even the daily effort of study and work as well as relationships with others, is that we can have fun only in a framework of very precise rules. In fact, if in a race someone refuses to respect the offside rule, or left before the "go", or in a slalom jumped some flag, there would be no competition, but only individual and disordered performances. On the contrary, when you face a race, you learn that rules are essential for living together; that happiness is not found in recklessness, but in faithfully pursuing one's goals; and you also learn that you don't feel free when you don't have limits, but when, with your own limits, you give your best. We must be masters of our limits and not slaves of our limits.
Here are the horizons opened to us by the world of sport, and how many are the beneficial consequences, for yourself and for society as a whole, of a sporting experience lived as an opportunity for aggregation, growth and fraternity. This is why in your Statute it is said that the Italian Sports Center intends to testify to the value of sport as a tool to promote hospitality, health, employment, equal opportunities, environmental protection, protection of children and children. adolescence, cohesion and social integration (see Introduction).
They might ask you how you can hope that sport is the tool to solve so many problems, and to bring about such a profound transformation of our society. We can answer that sport can do it because it improves people, and can foster a culture of dialogue and respectful encounter. The fight with the opponents, in sports competitions, is always called "encounter", and never "confrontation", because in the end, although it is better to win, in a certain sense you win both. Here is the world we dream of, and with determination we want to build, on the basis of a healthy competitive spirit, that we always see a friend and a brother in the adversary.
This is the heart of the Christian vision of man, which for you is also the basis of sporting activity. With this attitude, with this heart so enlarged, every sporting activity can be called play, play. Children play; play is the activity of joy, always. Only from this base can we achieve such high and beautiful ideals. Perhaps you boys will ask me: "Father, what would this Christian vision of life propose to us? Is it perhaps an abstract principle, or a concept that can be understood after having studied a lot? ". No! This is not studied! The Christian vision means learning to look at others and things with the very eyes of Jesus: with the eyes of God, with the same eyes with which God looks at me; see how he saw Jesus, see how he sees God. It means listening to his words to understand his feelings and try to imitate his gestures. Be assured of it: a more beautiful and more just world emerges from the Gospel, in which the diversity of others is not a motive for division, but for growth and mutual aid.
I encourage you to live with this spirit in the oratories and parishes where you work, and to preserve the faith that is given to you, which is the most precious asset for your life. May you always be grateful to those who educate you and accompany you, to coaches, educators, parents and your families. May you be bearers of hope in all the environments in which you find yourself living; and always stay close to those of you who are weaker because of a disability, so that you participate in various activities together with others and never feel excluded. May you also accompany, with your friendship and active support, those of you who are dedicated to international sports volunteering projects, which you are carrying out in different countries and represent a precious sign for our time. This is gratuitousness. Your activity must be inspired by gratuitousness: giving! And this is why it is important in sport to preserve the amateur dimension. It is very important, because it preserves gratuitousness, the gratuitousness of being, of giving oneself.
I wish you to always live your associative life with joy and to become missionaries in the places you frequent, transmitting the joy of improving yourself every day and always tending to those around you your friendly hand. The Lord bless your path, and also bless mine. And you pray for me and I pray for you. Thank you!
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation - Image source: VaticanNews.va