Vatican Corner 01-20-19

On January 10, 2019, the Vatican announced the creation of its first ever sports association: Athletica Vaticana. It is the next step in the Vatican’s longstanding promotion of sports as an instrument of dialogue, peace and solidarity. The idea for a Vatican track team began with a group of employees who met daily for morning runs along the Tiber River or at the Roman sports facilities near the ancient baths. The Vatican’s team of about 60 athletes, range in age from 19 to 62 and is made up of Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists, technicians, journalists, typographers, firemen and a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Library. “Honorary members” include two young Muslim migrants and several young people with disabilities. In recent years the Vatican has put together unofficial soccer and cricket teams who have helped build relations with the Anglican Church through annual competitions in Britain. But the track team is the first to have a legal status representing the Holy See – Vatican City. Through the signing of an agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee, the Vatican team has become a member of the Italian Track Association and consequently it will be allowed to become a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations – the international governing body for the sport of athletics. The team will now be able to receive Italian national coaching and scientific and medical resources. The team is hoping to compete internationally in such events as the Games of the Small State of Europe (states with fewer than one million people), and the Mediterranean Games. The Vatican is looking to sign similar agreements with the Italian Paralympic committee. Could the Olympics be in the team’s future? During the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, a Vatican delegation was invited to take part in the opening ceremony and attend its general meeting as an official observer. The team’s president and head of the Va”can’s sports department – Monsignor Melphor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda said “the dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See’s flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.” But that is a long term goal and for now the Vatican is looking to participate in competitions that have cultural or symbolic value. Pharmacist /runner Michela Ciprietti said the aim of the team is not exclusively competitive, but rather to “promote culture and running and launch the message of solidarity and the fight against racism and violence of all types.” “During the races we challenger each other, at the end we hug each other, no matter what your religion or country or province.”