Today, the 32nd Summer Olympics officially opens. Hosted by Japan, the Games, dubbed ‘Tokyo 2020’, will be lasting for two weeks until August 8. Over 11,000 athletes from more than 200 nations, competing across 339 events, have landed in the Land of the Rising Sun in recent days to represent their countries in the global sports event.
And one person who will most likely be watching the event through the screen is Pope Francis himself! The 84-year-old pope is a known football fan, and some reports even say that he played basketball in his younger years, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he watches Tokyo 2020 from his residence in Rome. (Read: Meet the 10 Filipinas Representing PH At The Tokyo Olympics)
Not just strength, physicality
But for Pope Francis, sports isn’t just about physical and mental strength; it’s also about fraternity, discipline, and respect, among others–some of the values he holds close to his heart. “Great sporting events like today’s Super Bowl are highly symbolic, showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace,” he said in a video message for the 2017 Super Bowl.
— Houston Super Bowl (@HouSuperBowl) February 5, 2017
He was also quoted saying, “In a world thirsting for peace, tolerance, and reconciliation, I hope that the spirit of the Olympic Games inspires all – participants and spectators – to fight the good fight and finish the race together,” about the Rio Olympics during his general speech in 2016.
And these words inspire athletes from all across the world to be kind and respectful, no matter what sport, and whether they win or lose. So to encourage our athletes, especially the 19 Filipinos representing the country at Tokyo 2020, here are a few more words from Pope Francis on sports!
Pope Francis on sports: “We reach great results, in sports as in life, together, as a team.”
In his letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Pope Francis said that sports is “a privileged area around which people meet without any distinction of race, sex, religion, or ideology.” He explains that this makes it possible for people from all walks of life to unite towards a common goal.
The Pope also says that by working together in a team, each member is motivated and pushed to succeed and give the best we can.
Pope Francis on sports: “Life is a journey made up of defeats and victories, the important thing is not to lose the desire to ‘play the game’.”
During a speech to the Italian Basketball Federation, Pope Francis lauded basketball and its players. “[Basketball] is a sport that lifts you up to the heavens because, as a famous former player once said, it is a sport that looks upwards, towards the basket, and so it is a real challenge for all those who are used to living with their eyes always on the ground,” he said. (Read: Vatican Publishes Book Compilation of the Pope’s Messages to Athletes)
He added that the sport, which many play from a young age, encourages children to not lose sight of their goals. Pope Francis even uses a basketball analogy to teach a lesson about life. He explains that basketball teaches people that despite not “shooting a hoop” or scoring, you can still get back on the court and take another shot.
Pope Francis on sports: “Sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives.”
At the opening ceremony of the Vatican sports conference in 2016, Pope Francis delivered a message highlighting the importance and impact of sports. He stated that it wasn’t just a game that people play and win at–it enriches lives, teaches lessons, and unites us. He even says that it is an avenue where the Word of God can be spread.
“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,” the Pope said.
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be happening from July 23 to August 8 in various stadiums and sports venues in Japan. 19 Filipino athletes–10 women and 9 men–will be competing in different events in the hopes of bringing home a medal to Manila.