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.

Just Posted

Rare white ravens spotted again in Coombs

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in the region

Parksville Qualicum Beach drivers spotted speeding, missing stop signs and talking on cellphones

Intersection of Marks Avenue and Highway 4A in Parksville is big for scofflaws

Sand sculpture winners announced at Parksville Beach Festival

Works from international competitors on display until Aug. 18

Coombs resident wants better transit service to area

Pilcher said it would especially help people with physical challenges

Parksville security camera rebate program raises concerns for privacy advocates

‘Everyone has the right to their own privacy within their own home and their own area’

VIDEO: Parksville teen performs poetry as escape from anxiety

Lorna Rasmussen to perform original work at MAC

Too much time on social media can hurt teens’ mental health: study

Researchers conducted a four-year survey of more than 3,800 adolescents between Grades 7 and 11

Advocates want charges in horse deaths during Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

Chuckwagon races are a nightly spectacle during the Stampede, a 10-day annual celebration of western life

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Cumberland memorial ride set for deceased Island mountain biker

A memorial ride is set for Tuesday evening for the mountain biker who died in the trails last week.

Most Read