During Francis’ audience with the Italian Tennis Federation, ahead of the Internazionali d’Italia tournament in Rome, the president gave the Pope a white tennis racket.
During an audience with the Italian Tennis Federation ahead of the Internazionali d’Italia tournament in Rome, Francis warned players against the risk of “taking shortcuts” through doping for example. He underlined that tennis is a “very competitive sport” that can put athletes under “pressure to achieve top results” when they can instead be “precious role models” to others.
“I have spoken on a number of occasions about sport as an educational experience. Today I wish to stress this: sport is an educational path,” the Pope said. “There are three paths, three fundamental pillars for children, tens and young people: education – academic and family –, sport and work. When we have all three, school, sport and work, then the conditions are in place for us to lead a really full life, steering clear from the kind of habits that poison and ruin our existence. The Church takes an interest in sport because it cares about people, about the whole person and it recognizes that sport influences a person’s education, their relationships, their spirituality. As athletes, you have a mission to fulfil: you can be precious role models to those who admire you. And you managers, coaches and sports professionals are also called to give a positive testimony of human values, leading examples of how sporting practice would always be loyal and clean. Yours is a highly competitive sport, but the pressure to achieve top results must never drive you to take shortcuts, as happens in the case of doping for example. A victory achieved by breaking the rules and fooling others is so ugly and sterile!” the Pope said.
Francis recalled the athlete example St. Paul uses to illustrate an important characteristic of human nature: “Don’t you know that in a racing competition in a stadium, everyone runs but only one person can claim the prize? So you too, run and go and get that prize!” “In a way, you experience this every day in tennis. But St. Paul is talking about the challenge of giving a finanl meaning to life itself. I would therefore like to urge each and every one of you to take up challenges, not just in sport – as you already do and with excellent results –, but in life, in your search for good , true good, without fear but with courage and enthusiasm instead. Challenge yourselves in your relationships with others and with God, giving your best and devoting your life to what really matters, always. Use your talents in service of human encounter, friendship and inclusion.”
The Pope’s audience marked the start of a symposium held by the Italian Tennis Federation ahead of the Internazionali d’Italia tournament in Rome, kicking off this Sunday. Today’s audience was preceded by a show featuring Italian singer Nek, presented by actor Max Giusti. This took place in the Paul VI Hall. The president of the federation, Angelo Binagli pointed out that the Pope’s dress made him look like a true tennis player and presented him with a white tennis racket:” Thankfully there’s no net between us, you can’t use the racket against us this time,” he joked. Francis gave a special greeting to the children present – “there are so many of them!” –, who are taking part in a project run by the Italian Tennis Federation.