Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Church and sports

Though it won't compete, Vatican represents global church at Olympics

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

TURIN, Italy (CNS) -- Though the tiny nation wedged in the middle of Rome has its own flag and national anthem, Vatican City State will not be vying for any medals at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin.

Some have suggested the Vatican could help pay witness to the games' ideals of fostering peace among all peoples by joining with the other nations competing in this international sporting event.

If there were such a team, uniforms for "Team Vatican" could be yellow and white, the colors of the Vatican flag, and medal winners would have to remember the Latin lyrics to their nation's anthem when their flag was raised to the strains of Charles-Francois Gounod's "Hymn and Pontifical March."

But it's a scenario Olympic spectators will probably never see, said one Vatican official.

"Every country does different things, so I see an opportunity to maybe get some synergy going," to network with chaplains and national Olympic committees and to look for ways pastoral plans could be shared among the different nations, he said.

Father Lixey said he did not think the Vatican would ever start training its own Olympians.

"We're not a team competing, but we're there for all the athletes," he said.

The priest said some people tend to see the Vatican as a country that might want to boast its own national identity, but the pope is not the leader of a nation; he is the universal shepherd guiding the world's faithful.

"We're every country really. We represent the church throughout the world, not just the small city state of Vatican City," said the priest, a native of Flint, Mich.

And then there's this:

Clerics swap robes for soccer togs

Priests and friars team up for Europe's football grail

(ANSA) - Rome, February 6 - Italian clerics are on a new mission from God: to show they can beat Europe's religious best at soccer .

Swapping their robes for football gear, priests and friars have teamed up in a bid for a new holy grail, a European Champions Cup for holy brethren .

Eleven fathers have combined forces with a selection of Capuchin monks to take on the best of Europe on Monday, when the second annual 'Champions Clerum' tournament kicks off in Zagreb .

"We decided to opt for strength in numbers," said defensive pillar Fr. Leonardo Biancalana .

The priests' side has been up and running since 2001, he explained, while the friars have been fighting it out for more than a decade .

"So we'll be relying on their experience" .

Soccer clerics have to cope with unusual challenges in their preparation for matches, Biancalana pointed out .

"We only manage to get together twice a month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and often have to do without players because of a heavy load of marriages or baptisms .

"And our rhythm is sometimes upset when new talent is shipped to missions abroad" .

The playing padres say a special prayer before they take to the field - usually only a simple Our Father or Hail Mary since there is as yet no patron saint of soccer .

"But some of our members like to ward off injury by having a word with St. Christopher" .

They regard the patron of travellers as a protection as strong as their shin pads, Biancalana said. One of their most fancied opponents are the Spanish outfit, 'Os Chipas' (The Sparks), who take their name from their motto, He Is The Light, We Are Mere Sparks .

The two-week competition features sides from Germany, Austria, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Romania and the holders and hosts Croatia .

At the very least, the Vatican should put together a side for the next World Cup qualifying.

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