Photo: Pope Francis receives tennis racket during audience with Italian Tennis Federation in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

 

Vatican City  (VIS) – “Sport is an educational path”, said the Holy Father on May 8  as he received in audience 7,000 members of the Italian Tennis Federation in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. “There are three fundamental pillars for children and young people,” he added: “Education – in school and in the family – sport, and work. When we have all three of these, then there exist the conditions for developing a full and authentic life, thus avoiding those dependencies that poison and ruin existence.”

 

“The Church is interested in sport because she has man, the full man, at heart, and recognises that sporting activity has an impact on the formation of the person, on relationships, and on spirituality. You athletes have a mission to accomplish: to be, for those who admire you, valid role models. And you too, directors, trainers and sports workers, are called upon to give good witness to human values, as masters of a sporting practice that is always fair and clear.”

 

The Pope commented that tennis is a very competitive sport, but “the pressure to achieve significant results must never drive you to take short cuts such as in the case of doping. How ugly and sterile a victory is if it is obtained by cheating and deceiving others.”

 

“The apostle Paul uses the example of the athlete to illustrate an important characteristic of human existence,” said the bishop of Rome. “’Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it’. In a certain sense, this is your daily experience in tennis. But St. Paul refers to the challenge of giving an ultimate meaning to life itself. I would therefore exhort each one of you to play the game not only in sport – as you already do, and with excellent results – but also in life, in the search for goodness, true goodness, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm. Play the game with others and with God, giving the best of yourself, spending your life for what is truly valuable and which stands the test of time. Put your talents to the service of the encounter between people, friendship, and inclusion.”

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