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Book collects Pope Francis' words of encouragement to athletes

Pope Francis with a soccer ball in St Peters Square in 2015 Credit Vatican Media Pope Francis holds a soccer ball in St. Peter's Square in 2015. / Vatican Media.

The Vatican is publishing a new book collecting Pope Francis’ notable speeches to athletes of all kinds, and which includes the testimonies of three professional athletes.

An Aug. 29 press release describes the book as a collection of the pope’s “most significant speeches to athletes,” including great champions, men and women with physical or intellectual disabilities, children, and young people.

The 124-page pocket-sized book is “a ‘manual’ that suggests the possibility of living sport - but also life itself - according to the concrete indications of an exceptional coach: Pope Francis,” the release says.

“Put Yourself in the Game: Thoughts on Sports” (in Italian Mettersi in Gioco: Pensieri sullo Sport) was edited by the Vatican’s publishing house and the Dicastery for Communications.

The quotations included in the book are preceded by testimonies from three professional athletes: the Italian soccer player Francesco Totti, former Kenyan marathoner Tegla Loroupe, and Formula One driver turned paralympian Alex Zanardi.

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Zanardi’s contribution was written before he was involved in a serious accident during a handcycling race for paralympic athletes in Tuscany on June 19.

The 53-year-old paralympian is recovering in the hospital after undergoing hours of neurosurgery and maxillofacial surgery, and being put into a medically-induced coma.

Pope Francis in June wrote a letter to the athlete, thanking him for offering the world a “lesson in humanity.”

“Your story is an example of how to start again after a sudden halt. Through sport you have demonstrated how to live life as protagonists, making disability a lesson in humanity,” the pope wrote.

Zanardi lost both his legs in 2001 after crashing during a motor race in Germany. He went on to win four gold medals and two silvers in handcycling at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics.

In 2016, Francis spoke at the opening ceremony of a Vatican conference on sports.

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He said “sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, she is working in the world of sport to bring the joy of the Gospel, the inclusive and unconditional love of God for all human beings.”

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