Dubai: With his typical candour and grace, Pope Francis did not fail to display his sporting side while calling on youth to rise to the challenge during his annual Palm Sunday address in the shelter of St Peter’s Basilica.
“In this period, so many events have been suspended, but the best fruits of sport come out: resistance, endurance, team spirit, brotherhood and giving the best of oneself ... therefore, we relaunch sport for peace and development,” the Pontiff said in his address televised live across the world, but without any people in the Vatican Square due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pope Francis further went on to laud sport as a “meeting place where people of all levels and social conditions come together to reach a common aim”.
“Sport is a privileged space of unity and encounter,” he added.
Pope Francis, who last month completed seven years of his Papacy since taking over in 2013, has been a constant advocate of sport and its benefits, especially to the younger generations. In 2018, in a letter addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Pope Francis reflected on how precious sport is in current culture which, he said, is “dominated by individualism and the gap between the younger generations and the elderly”.
“Sports is a privileged area around which people meet without any distinction of race, sex, religion, or ideology. It’s where we can experience the joy of competing to reach a goal together, participating in a team, where success or defeat is shared and overcome. This helps us to reject the idea of conquering an objective by focusing only on ourselves,” he noted.
Dubai, and the UAE, have been an integral partner in the Peace and Sports movement since the past few years. The Dubai Sports Council (DSC) had tied up with Peace and Sport to organise the Peace and Sport Dubai Forum held at the JW Marquis Hotel on April 23-24, 2013. The first-ever Peace and Sport Forum in the region attracted some of the top global decision-makers from the domains of sport, politics, the private sector and civil society.
Pope Francis, who supports the San Lorenzo football team back home in Argentina, hosted an international, inter-faith match in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on September 1, 2014. The match attracted footballers of various faiths with several stars coming out of retirement, including one of Argentina’s favourite sons, Diego Armando Maradona — one-time coach at Dubai’s Al Wasl Club.