POPE HAS SPECIAL WORDS FOR AUSCHWITZ SURVIVORS, A STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL AND CANINE “ATHLETES” – VATICAN HOSTS GLOBAL CONFERENCE ON FAITH AND SPORTS

POPE HAS SPECIAL WORDS FOR AUSCHWITZ SURVIVORS, A STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL AND CANINE “ATHLETES”

After his general audience catechesis this morning, which focused on the highlights of his recent three-day trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis had a number of special greetings for certain groups attending the weekly audience. Among the 25,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope saluted the “Vivere da Sportivi” Association (Living a Sporting Life). The Association is holding a “School of Fair Play” activity this week in Rome, which brings together secondary school students from all over Italy for a film festival showing student-made video projects exploring themes of integration and fair play, solidarity, and the Olympic spirit.

The Holy Father also had special words for former prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp during his greetings to Polish-speaking pilgrims at the end of the general audience. “Today we celebrate the memory of St. Faustina Kowalska. She reminded the world that God is rich in mercy and that His love is more powerful than death, sin and every evil. May this message of the Merciful Jesus, entrusted to her, bear fruit in your life with a deeper union with God and the works of mercy. Entrusting to the Lord ourselves and the difficult problems of the world, we frequently repeat: ‘Jesus, I trust in you!’. Praised be Jesus Christ.”

And then – a surprise greeting for “canine athletes”! Pope Francis often meets with athletes throughout the year– he is known to be a huge soccer fan – and at today’s audience he welcomed “canine athletes”! In fact, he spoke briefly with members of the “Federazione Italiana Sport Cinofili,” which is the Italian Federation dealing with “dog sports,” which test a canine’s agility and obedience. The Pope blessed the animals, petting many of the dogs, and shook hands with their trainers, mentioning the group by name during the audience.

dog-athletes

VATICAN HOSTS GLOBAL CONFERENCE ON FAITH AND SPORTS

The first ever global conference on Faith and Sport opened today in the Vatican on the theme ‘Sport at the Service of Humanity.’ Leading figures from the world of sport, religion and culture are among those attending the 3-day conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture with the special support of the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee.

Pope Francis presided over the conference’s opening ceremony this afternoon in the Paul VI Hall, including special guests U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Thomas Bach, president of the IOC.

In addition to discussing how faith and sport can work together, the Vatican conference aims to launch a movement to develop – through sport – life skills, character, values and enjoyment of life, inspiring people to live in accordance with six principles: compassion, respect, love, enlightenment, balance and joy. Participants will be focusing in particular on how to use the benefits of sport to empower and help the poor and disadvantaged.

Two years ago, in an inspirational message to sports figures, Pope Francis said, “Challenge yourself in the game of life, as you do in the game of sport.” These brief words became the starting point for “Sport at the Service of Humanity” and its vision: bringing together global leaders and influential people from different faiths and from the worlds of sport and business to produce positive, actionable results on society.

The conference has been organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture under the leadership of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and includes leaders of the major religious traditions.

“Authentic sport is an expression of a fundamental category of the human person,” said Cardinal Ravasi at a press conference. “It is a free manifestation of creativity, fantasy and potential. This noble activity can degenerate through well-known devastating elements. But sport, in its origins as today, is part of the educational and personal growing process that can bring eurythmia (harmony) between body and soul”.

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