Human Interest

Vatican athletic event pairs Olympians with people with disabilities

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An annual event hosted by Athlética Vaticana, a sports organization sponsored by Vatican City and the city-state’s only official sports team, paired together Olympic athletes with people from other marginalized, overlooked, or vulnerable populations.

The “We Run Together” event took place for the second year on May 24, pairing Olympians with people with Down syndrome and autism, migrants, refugees, prisoners, and survivors of trafficking. Additionally, this year’s event included diplomats and ambassadors to Vatican City, with the goal of expressing “a message of brotherhood and peace.”

During the event, non-competitive athletic relays took place, where the Olympians handed off batons in “a concrete sign of fraternity.”


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When Athlética Vaticana was originally created in 2019, Bishop Sánchez de Toca called it a historic moment and pointed out how sports can be a testimony for life. “I think having fun is an important dimension that is sometimes lost in sports, but it goes deeper than that,” he said. “It also has cultural, educational and spiritual purposes. It is about carrying the message of the Church through one’s own life and one’s own presence as yeast in the dough in the world of athletics, which is one of the most popular sports right now along with cycling and football, without need of great speeches, but with the testimony of one’s own life.”

In the previous iteration of We Run Together, Pope Francis spoke about “athletic champions and other champions with disabilities” meeting on the “same plane of human dignity.” He argued that sports weren’t meant to be solely competitive, but to be inclusive, fraternal, heal wounds, and build bridges and friendships.

“It gave me great joy to know that several athletes even opened the doors of their homes to experience the joy of a direct encounter. Opening the doors of one’s house means opening one’s heart,” he said, adding, “True sport always maintains an amateur dimension… It is free… With God’s help, we run together for fraternity and human dignity.”

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