Pope Francis Tells Sports Team "to be Church is to live as one of God's summons, it is to feel owners in life, to be part of the same team".



Sala Clementina - Saturday, November 20, 2021


Dear Roma friends,
dear brothers and sisters!

I welcomed with joy the proposal of the World Rom Organization to play a football match here, in Rome, with a "team of the Pope", who are not the cardinals: that is, a Vatican team.

In fact, the team with which - and not "against" which - you will play tomorrow represents a style of sporting passion lived with solidarity and gratuitousness, with an amateur and inclusive spirit. You will play together with some Swiss Guard, with priests who work in offices of the Roman Curia, with Vatican employees and some of their children.

On the pitch - with the T-shirt bearing the words "Brothers all" - there will also be a young footballer with Down syndrome, belonging to " Special Olympics”, And also three migrants. These, after a path marked by abuse and violence, which saw them pass through the Greek camp of Lesbos and then into Italy, were welcomed by the Community of Sant'Egidio and are living an experience of integration. Thank you all for agreeing to be part of the “Pope's team”! It is a team where there are no barriers and which makes inclusion simple normality. He makes inclusion simple normality: this is clear. I thank the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Ravasi, for this concrete action of witness in the world of sport, especially through “Athletica Vaticana”, which lives this mission of service every day among sports women and men.

Dear Roma friends, I know your history, your reality, your fears and your hopes well. For this reason, I particularly fondly encourage the “A kick to exclusion” project, initiated by the Diocese of Rome, so that this match does not remain just an isolated moment. I greet Monsignor Ambarus, Auxiliary Bishop who is in charge of pastoral care among the Roma, accompanied by the children of the oratory of the parish of San Gregorio Magno alla Magliana. Thanks to you too, guys, and best wishes because I know that tomorrow you will be the first to take the field in a preparatory match with your Lazio peers. And thanks to the Lazio club that kindly and generously hosts and supports this initiative.

Last September 14 in Košice, Slovakia,  I visited the Roma community . I invited us to move from prejudice to dialogue, from closure to integration. After listening to the testimonies of some members of the community - stories of pain, redemption and hope -, I reminded everyone that "to be Church is to live as one of God's summons, it is to feel owners in life, to be part of the same team". I had used precisely these expressions, taken from the football language, which also match the meaning of your game very well. Too many times, I said to the Roma people of Košice, the Roma have “been the object of preconceptions and merciless judgments, of discriminatory stereotypes, of words and defamatory ones. With this we have all become poorer in humanity ».

For this reason, the sporting event you will give life to has great significance: it indicates that the way to peaceful coexistence is integration. And the basis is the education of children. Dear Roma friends, I know that in Croatia you are giving life to many sports initiatives of inclusion, to help mutual knowledge and friendship. It is a sign of hope! Because the big dreams of children cannot crash against our barriers. Children, all children, have the right to grow up together, without obstacles and without discrimination. And sport is a place of encounter and equality, and it can build communities through bridges of friendship.

Thank you for this visit! I wish you a good match. It does not matter who will score the most goals, because you do the decisive goal together, the goal that makes hope win and that kicks the exclusion. Thank you all!