The Vatican’s Council for the Laity is establishing a foundation to encourage good
sportsmanship under the patronage of Pope John Paul II. The John Paul II Foundation for Sports will be headquartered on the Via della Conciliazione, directly in front of St. Peter’s Square. The Foundation will be operated under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The aim is to encourage the values of the Gospel through sports.
My family is somewhat athletic, well, at least my father and sister are engaged with some kind athletic activity. My father rides a motor cycle and hunting and Lauren plays softball. Me, on the other hand, would rather watch from the sideline. Would you believe I was a freshman soccer coach when I was teaching at Fairfield Prep? And would you believe the team was undefeated? You ought to believe me because it is true. Nevertheless, I recall being impressed by the young and vigorous Fr. Karol Woytjla doing outside activity. I had never seen priests doing sports activities before. What a shock! In fact, one of favorite pictures of Fr. Karol is saying Mass on the underside of a canoe with a makeshift cross in the background. The connection between
natural beauty and the divine beauty (Mass) is a remarkable encounter. Later we see how Pope John Paul II very much knew the importance the role sports plays in culture as he addressed the topic in some 120 addresses.
Edio Costantini, the foundation’s president, explained that one of the main objectives of the foundation is to relaunch parishes’ educational venues. He also said “The creation of the foundation and the beginning of its activities coincides, not by coincidence, with the Pauline Year. In his letters, St. Paul often referred to the Christian life as an athletic race that, in the end, would be awarded with an incorruptible crown.”
The Foundation’s first undertaking will be a series of marathons to take place between Bethlehem and Rome. The marathons will begin next April 24 and end June 21 in St. Peter’s Square.
Why is the Church interested in promoting good sport? Archbishop Stanislaus Rylko writes in the preface of the proceedings, “The World of Sport Today: Field of Christian Mission”:
To achieve these lofty objectives sport nevertheless needs to discover its deepest ethos, and comply with the basic principle of the primacy of the human person. He therefore urged people to adopt a healthy approach to sport,
so that sport is not practised as an end in itself, giving rise to the danger of becoming a vain and harmful idol, but to make it a meaningful instrument for the comprehensive development of the person and the construction of a society made more to the measure of Man. “When understood in this way, sport is not an end, but a means; it can become a vehicle of civility and genuine recreation, encouraging people to put the best of themselves on the field and to avoid what might be dangerous or seriously harmful to themselves or to others.” In other words, for John Paul II, the world of sport is an important areopagus of modern times, awaiting apostles who are ready to boldly announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.