A new Vatican document cautions against the dangers of competitive children’s sports, political and economic pressures on athletes to win “at all costs” and the unsportsmanlike behaviour of fans. Source: CNS.
The document also calls on every group or institution sponsoring sports programs to have expert-guided child protection policies in place and it urged bishops, parishes and lay Catholics to be proactive in helping “humanise” sports.
The document, “Giving the Best of Yourself,” also condoned sports on Sundays as a means of bringing families and communities together in joy and celebration, but only as long as such events are not used as an excuse to miss Mass.
Released on Friday by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, it is the first Vatican document on sport, said the dicastery's prefect, Cardinal Kevin Farrell.
In a message to the cardinal, Pope Francis applauded the document and said, “Sport is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people.”
“We need to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life, which can enlighten one another,” said the Pope, who often fondly recalls how he and his family cheered on his favourite soccer team when he was a boy.
The 52-page document highlighted the Church’s positive view of the important values inherent to sport and blew the whistle on the growing threats in the sports world, including corruption, over-commercialisation, manipulation and abuse.
While not trying to touch on every problem or concern or pinpoint one sport in particular, the document listed what it saw as four serious challenges that are the result of an obsession with success and the huge economic and political pressures put on sports and athletes: the debasement of the body, doping, corruption and the negative behaviour of spectators.
People are not machines, it said, and parents, coaches and communities must avoid objectifying players, particularly with expectations they receive medals, scholarships, wealth or break records.
The document called on the Church to develop and promote an “apostolate for sports” that shows the Church’s commitment to the integral wellbeing and development of the human person in sports and to directly initiate sports-related activities at the local level.
Pope: 'sport is a place of unity and encounter' (Vatican News)