.- A day after the Super Bowl of American football, the Pope tackled an increasingly prevalent problem in the other sport known as football. Speaking by way of a telegram delivered by his Secretary of State, Pope Benedict XVI condemned all forms of violence surrounding soccer - the sport known as football in the rest of the world.
"In reiterating his firm condemnation of all forms of violence that disfigure the world of football, the Holy Father exhorts its protagonists to promote respect for legality with greater determination, favoring loyalty, solidarity and healthy competitiveness,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote on Monday.
Though European officials have been cracking down on football “hooliganism,” fan violence still results in thousands of arrests and injuries each year, as well as dozens of deaths.
The Holy Father’s message was contained within a telegram of condolence to the family of a police inspector who was recently killed in the riots following a soccer match in Catania, Italy.
Archbishop Salvatore Gristina presided at a funeral for Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti, today.
"Informed of the tragic killing of Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti, the Supreme Pontiff expresses his spiritual closeness to the wife and children of the victim, as well as to the injured and the police who, with other law enforcement forces, work to safeguard the security of citizens,” the telegram says.
In the hope that the virtues of the game will be promoted, the message continues, “His Holiness raises fervent prayers for the soul of the faithful servant of the State and, while invoking heavenly consolation upon the relatives and colleagues and all those stricken by such dramatic loss, he sends a comforting apostolic blessing, which may also be extended to those present at the funeral rites."
Footage of the funeral has already circulated around Italy. And many Italians have been replaying the words of the deceased’s wife, who also condemned the violence surrounding football. “I hope that my husband, who was an educator in life, will remain an educator in death, that this death can really bring about change…" Marisa Raciti said. "These youngsters should think a little. Sports is something beautiful, violence is not. Violence just causes pain, too much pain, too much pain."