The Pontifical Council for the Laity’s “LAITY TODAY”,
“THE WORLD OF SPORT TODAY:
The proceedings of the International Seminar of Study
Sport has now become established as a mass phenomenon without equal precedent. When coupled with the process of globalisation and modern communications technologies, sports can attract millions of people and generate strong emotions. While sport is experienced by some as a kind of “ecstasy” from the drabness of daily life, for others, it is a big business. Once at the service of health, sport is now under the influence of a cult of the body that places health at risk through the use of “performance enhancing substances” that threaten the very life of the athlete.
However, today's sport must not be viewed merely in terms of abuse and deviance. This sober picture that portrays this vast universe is only part of the story. For the world of sport still has its sound environments and still its generous protagonists who strive to reclaim the ideal of sport as a real school of humanity, education, and virtue. It also continues to grow in its popularity and its unique capacity to unite the entire planet around a big event. As Pope Benedict recalled last fall, sport is a discipline that “when practiced with respect for the rules, can become an educational instrument and a means of transmitting important human and spiritual values” (Wednesday General Audience, 21 September 2005).
Sport in this broader context -with its problems as well as with its opportunities for evangelisation- provided the theme for the international seminar “The World of Sport today: field of Christian mission”, the proceedings of which are published in this volume of Laity Today. This seminar, which was held in Rome November 11-12, 2005, officially inaugurated the work of the “Church and sport” Section of the Pontifical Council that was begun in 2004 at the request of John Paul II in order to be a point of reference within the Holy See for all national and international sports organisations, and to act as a kind of “observatory” for the world of sport at the service of evangelisation.
“The world of sport today: field of Christian mission”, published by the Liberia Editrice Vaticana, begins with the presentation of a historical view of sport from ancient times until the present day. This is followed by an analysis of the global dimension of sport in contemporary society and culture, emphasising the values and principles that are essential for framing a Christian ethos of sport. After this, a chapter entitled “Sport: resources for renewal and future prospects” addresses the educational and formative aspects of especially youth sport. Subsequently, a chapter dedicated to “Sport in the light of the Magisterium of the Church”, offers an organic summary of the pontiff’s teaching on sport during the last century.
In addition to the chapters that deal with the nature and future goals of the “Church and sport” Section, the proceedings conclude with the interventions from two round table discussions. The first deals with “problems and challenges of sport today” offering a brief overview of the polemical relationship of sport with business, violence, doping, and the media. The other round table, “Sport: frontier of the new evangelisation” explores how Catholic sports associations, sport chaplains, pastoral care at major sports events, and the Christian presence in sports institutions offer the Church opportunities to permeate the world of sport with the gospel.
The establishment of the “Church and sport” Section has been welcomed by many as a palpable sign of the Church’s concern for this important dimension of contemporary culture notwithstanding its problems. In his letter to Cardinal Severino Poletto of Turin for the opening of the 20th Winter Olympics, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the incarnate Word, the light of the world, may enlighten every dimension of humanity, including sport. For he said: “sport is one of the human activities which is also waiting to be enlightened by God through Christ, so that the values it expresses may be purified and elevated at both the individual and the collective levels” (Letter to Cardinal Poletto, 29 November, 2005). It is our hope that this latest publication can serve as a an initial analysis of the world of sport in order to better respond to this hope of the Holy Father for the world of sport.
The proceedings are available from the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Italian and English. Copies can be purchased for 10,00 euro (shipping included) by contacting the dicastery at firstname.lastname@example.org or the following address:
September 15, 2006
Pontifical Council for the Laity