Don't reduce athletes to 'merchandise for profit,' Pope cautions [CNA]


Vatican City, Nov 25, 2013 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with delegates of the European Olympic committee on Saturday, advising them to reject a consumerist mentality towards sports which can dehumanize athletes.

“When sports come to be considered solely according to economic parameters or the achievement of victory at all costs, one runs the risk of reducing athletes to mere merchandise from which to profit,” he said on Nov. 23 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

It happens that “athletes enter into a mechanism that overwhelms them (and so) they lose the true meaning of their activities, that joy of play that has attracted them as children and that has led them to make so many sacrifices to become champions,” he explained.

The Pope described sports as having a kind of balance or “harmony,” but “if excessive pursuit of money and success prevails, this harmony is broken.”

The world of sports has the potential to bring about great good, because “the practice of sports, in fact, encourages a healthy overcoming of self and one’s own selfishness, trains a spirit of sacrifice, and if done well, promotes loyalty in relationships, friendship, (and) respect for rules.”

He then stressed to the officials,“it is important that those engaged in sports at various levels promote the human and religious values that are the basis of a more just and solid society.”

“I would like to encourage institutions such as yours that offer, especially to the younger generations, formative paths in sports to peace, sharing, and the coexistence of peoples,” the Pontiff continued.

Sports have the power to “unite, not divide!” he underscored, noting that the Olympic symbol of five intertwined rings “represents the spirit of fraternity that should characterize Olympic events and sporting competitions in general.”

This unity is a result of the “universal language” that is spoken by sports.  It “exceeds boundaries, languages, races, religions and ideologies.” Sports “have the capacity to bring people together, fostering dialogue and welcome.”

Moreover, added Pope Francis, “the connection between the Church and sports is a beautiful reality that is longstanding, because the ecclesial community sees in sports an effective instrument for the integral growth of the human person.”

“This is a very valuable resource.”

The Pontiff closed his remarks by offering his “heartfelt good wishes” and encouraging the Olympic officials to “foster the educational function of sports.”

“I invoke the blessing of the Lord upon you, your families, and all those taking part in the next Olympic games,” he concluded.

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