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Pope attends sports summit, calls for inclusion and dignity of athletes

Vatican City (CNS) — The Vatican Congregation, at the direction of Special Olympics President Tim Schreiber, who led a group exercise of about 200 people, turned into a stand full of cheering fans, pumping their fists, clapping and cheering. raised.

“Imagine you are in the stands…and behind me is a track where a 100-meter race runs,” says Schreiber, an athlete, coach, representative of international, national and regional athletic organizations, and About 250 people from about 40 countries attended the “Sport for All” summit held in the Vatican on September 29-30.

Schreiber asked everyone to imagine at the starting line that there is a child whose parents were told “I’m sorry” by the doctor who gave birth to the baby, whose mother didn’t get antenatal care, and whose school said “I’m sorry.” I was. , there is no program for your child” or you have never been invited to someone’s birthday party.

“And she’s on the starting line,” he said.

“I’ll ring the guns and I want you to use your own name and cheer for the child by name,” he said. !” Schreiber transformed an enthusiastic audience into a frenzied enthusiastic crowd.

After the imaginary sprinters crossed the finish line, Schreiber said, they threw their arms in the air because they knew they didn’t matter for the “done” victory.

In a world where sports are defined by naming winners and losers, what if everyone who participates in the race has value? “What is the spirit that flows when you watch, when you cheer, when people gather?”

Schreiber said that sport can satisfy people’s “hunger” for purpose, meaning and belonging, and that, in accordance with the Summit’s objectives, all people, regardless of age, ability, gender, income, legal status or circumstances, A person must be able to access the tangible and intangible benefits of sport.

The International Summit, co-hosted by the Decastery for Lay, Family and Life, and Decastery for Culture and Education, to promote sport as a way to promote vital values ​​and spiritual growth, will promote inclusion. further emphasized.

Summit attendees presented a final written declaration to Pope Francis on September 30, acknowledging the “tremendous power that sport wields in the modern world.” This document is published on his

Conference attendees On September 30, Pope Francis urged athletes to combat the throwaway culture of “treating men and women as products, using them and then throwing them away.”

Sport “is in danger of becoming a ‘machine’ of business, profit and consumer-driven showmanship, creating ‘celebrities’ to be exploited. But this is no longer sport,” the Pope said. “Sport is and must remain an educational and social good.”

If sport is promoted as a “life-giving activity” and focuses on building, socializing and educating mature personalities, then “playing sport is a way of personal and social redemption, restoration of dignity.” “Become a way to” and overcome isolation and exclusion. He said.

Thomas Wertz, founder of Varsity Catholicism, a division of Catholic University Student Fellowships (FOCUS) that works with student-athletes, told The Catholic News Service that U.S. college athletes often face mental health issues. , said they can struggle to find time. Attend mass and grow in their faith.

Many experience great anxiety and isolation due to the intense pressure to perform and to follow training and travel schedules, he said.

FOCUS’s work with athletes is aimed at “supporting them mentally in this intensity,” and praying that God “will bring them peace, hope, and prosperity as a whole person, body, mind, and soul.” I know that I can help you do that.

Rooting an identity in being God’s beloved child, not just being a star athlete, can also help students if they get injured or eventually quit the sport when they start their careers. he added.

Professor Patrick Kelly, a Jesuit priest at the University of Detroit Mercy, told the CNS that many young people quit sports because they put too much emphasis on winning, were paid attention to by scholarships, or injured themselves after playing too much sport in a year. He said he was quitting sports because he said, “It’s not fun anymore.”

Dr. Joseph Datkowski, an orthopedic surgeon in Cooperstown, New York, home of the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame, once told professional baseball players to do more to help fans with physical and mental disabilities. He told CNS that he once tried to

“I said to them, ‘It’s really great that the stadium has disabled seating and it’s no longer behind the posts or next to the toilets,'” he said. “But that’s not enough. ‘These kids need to be on the field with you because they’re just as competitive as you.'” And they want to experience it for themselves. I’m here.

Players jumped at the opportunity, and now six former Major League Baseball players come to Doubleday Field each year to teach baseball to about 50 children and adults.

Dr. Dutkowsky, an elite dancer at the New York City Ballet, was asked by his company to help start a free program for children with physical disabilities, especially cerebral palsy, to learn the beauty of movement from dancers and help them survive. I saw the same enthusiasm and joy in piano accompaniment.

He said the biggest impact will be on dancers who discover the joy of celebrating what children can do.

Dancers and ballplayers who come to work with children “fight,” he said, and when he asked them why, “they said, ‘These kids are making us Don’t judge”. Be passionate and enjoy what it is. ”

Dancing and throwing a ball “is a celebration, not a job,” Dr. Dutkowski said.

“The urge to be humanly perfect is now killing children, causing anxiety, depression and addiction,” he said. Instead, people should be encouraged to be fully human.