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The newly-established Athletica Vaticana. President Sánchez de Toca: “Bringing the Gospel in the world of sport through the witness of life”

As of January 1st  2019 Athletica Vaticana is a sport club in all respects,  affiliated to FIDAL and entitled to register its members. The initiative was presented today in the press room of the Holy See. SIR interviewed its President, Msgr. Melchor José Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, who thus summarised the mission of the newly established organization: "Bringing the Gospel in the world of sport through the witness of the life of runners”

Swiss guards; priests and monsignors of the Curia; employees of the Vatican Museums, L’Osservatore Romano and the papal farms of Castel Gandolfo; artisans, firefighters, a pharmacist and even a nun, a total of sixty people ranging from 20 to 60 years of age. Despite their differences they all share a common passion for running. They are the faces of  Athletica Vaticana, the community of the “Pope’s marathoners”, created as the result of the yearning to share the love for running, established as an amateur sport organization for all intents and purposes past January 1st, an unprecedented initiative born within the Leonine City. In the past months, the Holy See’s running initiative took part in various sport events; composed the “Prayer of the marathon runner” that was translated in 37 languages – including Arabic, Chinese, Ethiopian, and Swahili – and on the eve of the marathons of Rome and Florence it initiated the celebration of the Mass of the Marathoner.

The newly-established sports company was presented this morning at the press office of the Holy See along with the bilateral agreement with CONI (the Italian National Olympic Committee), with interventions by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Giovanni Malagò, President of CONI and member of CIO (International Olympic Committee), Luca Pancalli, President of the Italian Paralympic Committee –CIP; Mons. Melchor José Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, marathoner and president of Athletica Vaticana. The speakers’ panel included the team captain Michela Ciprietti, ranked third at the Via Pacis Half Marathon last September 23rd.

“It’s the first Vatican-born sports club”,

Msgr. Melchor José Sánchez de Toca y Alameda told SIR on the sidelines of the press conference. “It was initially placed under the aegis of the Pontifical Council for Culture – he said – and the same Secretariat of State asked to promote the adoption of a procedure providing appropriate legal status to this original group of amateur runners.” This process proceeded step by step: “past September 6 Athletica Vaticana was established as an association of faithful; it was then granted official recognition by the Secretariat of State and was inserted in the register of the Vatican City State with legal personality in compliance with Canon Law. Finally it obtained affiliation to Fidal (Italian Athletics Federation), as a result of which on January 1st 2019 it officially became a sport club in all respects, in the Vatican and in Italy.”.

What is your mission?
As defined in the Articles of the Association, it consists in practicing and propagating the practice of sport, especially athletics, also by sharing a special witness of Christian life and bringing the Pope’s message into the world of sports. The objectives are not limited to sport, or to recreational or spiritual purposes, in fact they encompass solidarity and cultural goals.

Bringing the Gospel into the world of sport through personal witness of life.

This is the commitment of the members of Athletica Vaticana, evidently related to the Holy Father and thus with a greater responsibility in living out the values of sport and especially those pertaining to Christian life.

Can the Gospel be brought into the world of sport?
As in every environment, we can and must evangelize by proclaiming Christ in this world through our personal witness; with simple, concrete gestures. Far from proselytizing or making ideological propaganda – as Francis warns us – it is a question of transmitting the light and the love of the Gospel through personal contacts.

How many members does it have?
The founding group consists of approximately sixty people, but we have now opened a membership program and we still don’t have the latest figures. These bureaucratic procedures take time. However, we are planning to start out with some forty-fifty members; we hope these figures will increase in the near future.”

What changes does the new legal status entail?
The great news consists in the legal effect that validates the passage from a group of friends running for personal enjoyment to a veritable club with all the duties and benefits it entails. It also enshrines a set of responsibility, while the fact that it was originally created as an association of faithful is extremely interesting. Now the members of Athletica Vaticana are entitled to their membership card affiliated to Fidal. Our association is RM 390.

When is the official debut planned to take place?
Our first public appearance as an informal group of friends occurred in 2017 on the occasion of the Via Pacis Half Maranthon. Our first public participation as a sport association will take place in Sicily with one of our honorary members, a Sicilian priest who loves to run and has also good chances of winning a medal. But as a group, we will make our official debut

at the Miguel Race, scheduled for January 20.

The list of participants will finally include Athletica Vaticana as a registered club.

Past March you “adopted” 20-year-old Jallow Buba from Gambia, and 19-year-old Anszou Cissè, from Senegal, asylum-seekers hosted by the “Auxilium” cooperative of Castelnuovo di Porto. Are you planning to launch some project with disabled athletes?

Inclusion is the flagship feature of Athletica Vaticana.

In fact, as honorary members, we have welcomed two youths hosted at the refugee centre and we signed a memorandum of understanding with FISPES (Italian Federation of Paralympic and Experimental Sports) to further the inclusion of disabled athletes and promote increased attention to people with disabilities also inside the Vatican and within the Catholic world.

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