In a video message Pope Francis sent for the start of the World Cup, he outlined the importance of good sportsmanship, stating that this attitude helps in building a more peaceful society.
“My hope is that, in addition to the feast of sports, this World Cup becomes the feast of solidarity between peoples,” the Roman Pontiff stated in his June 12 video message.
Aired on Brazilian television stations, the Pope’s address was read in Portuguese to honor of the country where the games are taking place, beginning today with a match between Brazil and Croatia, and concluding with the final game July 13.
Beginning his address, the Pope greeted “with great joy” all “lovers of soccer” and offered a warm salutation to the organizers of the event, as well as all those who will both participate in and watch the games, either in person or elsewhere.
Expressing his hope that the event will be a “feast of solidarity between peoples,” the pontiff explained that in order for this to happen, “the soccer competitions must be considered for what they are based on.”
“A game and at the same time an opportunity for dialogue, understanding and reciprocal human enrichment.”
This sport, he said, “is not only a form of entertainment, but also – and above all I would say – a tool to communicate values, promote the good of the human person and help build a more peaceful and fraternal society.”
Observing how there are “many values and attitudes fostered by soccer that are important not only on the field, but in all aspects of life, specifically in peace building,” Pope Francis invited listeners to think about the values of “loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing, solidarity.”
“Sport is a school of peace,” he noted, “it teaches us to build peace.”
Going on, the Bishop of Rome drew attention to the different lessons we learn in sports that can help to foster peace, stating that “three essential attitudes” are “the need to ‘train,’ ‘fair play’ and honor among competitors.”
“Sport teaches us that in order to win, you have to train,” he stated, pointing out that “by playing sports, we can see a metaphor of our lives.”
“In life, you have to fight, to ‘train,’ to strive in order to obtain important results,” therefore sportsmanship “becomes an image of the necessary sacrifices in order to grow in the virtues that build the character of a person.”
Bringing attention to the importance playing fair, the Roman Pontiff explained that in sports we need to learn “what ‘fair play’ in soccer has to teach us.”
“To play in a team, it is necessary to consider first the good of the group, not on one’s self,” the Pope observed, stating that “In order to win, it is necessary to overcome individualism, selfishness and all forms of racism, intolerance and instrumentalization of the human person.”
“It isn’t only in soccer that being ‘greedy’ is an obstacle to the success of the team,” he noted, “because when we are ‘greedy’ in life, ignoring the people around us, the whole society is harmed.”
A final element of sports that helps us to foster peace “is to have honor among competitors,” the pontiff said, adding that “The secret of victory in the field, but also in life, is to learn to respect the colleagues of your team, but also your opponent.”
“No one wins alone, neither in the field nor in life! Let no one feel excluded or isolated!”
Concluding his message, Pope Francis prayed that the World Cup 2014 will “take place with complete serenity and tranquility, always with mutual respect, solidarity and brotherhood among men and women who recognize themselves as members of the same family.”