Seminarians, Vatican guards, Olympic champions, people with disabilities and children took part in a morning Race of Faith to highlight how the Church can help foster a world of sport that respects human dignity.
Organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture, a 100-metre, three-lane track was temporarily laid along the main road leading to the edge of St Peter’s Square. A few hundred people showed up in the early hours of Sunday for a three-hour programme featuring relay races and testimonies of faith. It was part of the council’s promotion of the Year of Faith.
Msgr Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the council’s Culture and Sport section, said the council organised the race not just because of St Paul’s frequent analogies of the faith life being like a race, but also because passing a baton onto others is also “just like passing on the faith from person to person.”
After reciting the Angelus with people gathered in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted the race participants and asked them to remember that “the believer is an athlete of the spirit.”
Participants included British 2004 Olympic medal winner and world indoor sprint-champion, Jason Gardener, as well as Andrea Bartali, son of the late Italian champion road cyclist, Gino Bartali.
The council then held a daylong conference bringing together sports educators and representatives from Catholic sports associations and bishops’ conferences to discuss how the Church can encourage the sports world to better protect human dignity.