Sister Marie Theo, third from left, sits among other athletes of the Athletica Vaticana Vatican sports team, as they attend a press conference, at the Vatican, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. The Vatican has launched an official track team. About 60 Holy See employees are the first accredited members of Vatican Athletics. They include Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Vatican launches track team of Swiss Guards, nuns

The Vatican is looking to participate in competitions that had cultural or symbolic value

The Vatican launched an official track team Thursday with the aim of competing in international competitions as part of an agreement signed with the Italian Olympic Committee.

About 60 Holy See runners — Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library — are the first accredited members of Vatican Athletics. It’s the latest iteration of the Holy See’s long-standing promotion of sport as an instrument of dialogue, peace and solidarity.

Because of the agreement with CONI, the team is now a part of the Italian track association and is looking to join the International Association of Athletics Federations. It is hoping to compete in international competitions, including the Games of the Small States of Europe — open to states with fewer than 1 million people — and the Mediterranean Games.

“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games,” said Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, team president and the head of the Vatican’s sports department in the culture ministry.

But he said that was neither a short-term nor medium-term goal, and that for now the Vatican was looking to participate in competitions that had cultural or symbolic value.

“We might even podium,” he noted.

Vatican pharmacist-runner Michela Ciprietti told a Vatican press conference the aim of the team isn’t 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.”

Team members wearing matching navy warm-up suits bearing the Holy See’s crossed keys seal attended the launch. Also on hand were two honorary members of the team, migrants who don’t work for the Vatican but are training and competing with the team, as well as a handful of disabled athletes. The Vatican aims to sign similar agreements with the Italian Paralympic committee.

CONI president Giovanni Malago welcomed the birth of the Vatican team, even though he acknowledged that it might one day deprive Italy of a medal.

“Just don’t get too big,” he told Vatican officials at the launch, recalling how an athlete from another tiny country — Majlinda Kelmendi — won Kosovo’s first Olympic medal when she defeated Italian rival Odette Giuffrida in the final of the women’s 52-kilogram judo event at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

In recent years, the Vatican has fielded unofficial soccer teams and a cricket team that has helped forge relations with the Anglican church through annual tours in Britain. The track team, however, is the first one to have a legal status in Vatican City and to be an official part of the Italian sporting umbrella, able to compete in nationally and internationally sanctioned events and take advantage of the Italian national coaching, scientific and medical resources.

While St. John Paul II was known for his athleticism — he was an avid skier — Pope Francis is more of a fan, a longtime supporter of his beloved San Lorezo soccer team in Argentina.

READ MORE: Vatican defends pope against ‘blasphemous’ coverup claims

Vatican Athletics’ first official outing is the Jan. 20 “La Corsa di Miguel” (Miguel’s Race), a 10-kilometre race in Rome honouring Miguel Sanchez, an Argentine distance runner who was one of the thousands of young people who “disappeared” during the country’s Dirty War.

The choice is significant: Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was a young Jesuit superior in Argentina during the military dictatorship’s crackdown on alleged leftist dissidents.

___

Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

Former employee of Chilliwack senior care home calls working there ‘a horror show’

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Homeless count is coming to the Fraser Valley to help track the numbers

Training Feb. 27 in Chilliwack to help volunteers adopt respectful and compassionate approach

Fun workshop in Chilliwack will have tips on becoming nature stewards

Fraser Valley Conservancy is holding a Chilliwack session on how to help wildlife on Feb. 29

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Reaction to banning the strap

In 1973, students celebrated the end of corporal punishment while school admins felt anxiety.

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

Abbotsford mosque gets online hate for exhibit on Jesus

Event meant to bring community together gets attacked teaching religous differences

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

Most Read