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

Fernie skier braves extremes to find ‘soul line’

Caleb Brown named male champion at backcountry ski competition

Avalanche warning issued for Lizard Range, Flathead near Fernie

Warmer weather to increase avalanche risk: Avalanche Canada

Replacement school for Fernie imminent: SD5

School district board chair confident capital funding to follow maintenance project announcement

Teck to address air emission issues at Sparwood mine

Poorly performing dust collection system blamed for exceedances at Elkview Operations

WorkSafeBC close to completing ammonia inspections after Fernie arena tragedy

Statutory agency inspects ammonia-based fish processing facilities, follows up outstanding orders

VIDEO: RCMP ask kids to help name soon-to-be police dogs

13 German shepherd puppies will be born this year

Elkford woman wins national curling award

Terry Vandale hailed as a champion of curling; credited with making the sport more accessible

B.C. wildfire prevention budget bulked up as dry spring unfolds

Night vision goggles tested for early detection effort

Vernon ordered to reinstate terminated firefighters caught having sex at work

City believes arbitration board erred, exploring options

Dozens of B.C. temperature records smashed as spring brings early warmth

Squamish Airport was the hottest spot in all of Canada on Monday

Hackers seek holes in B.C. Hydro power grid, auditor says

System meets standards, but local outages still a concern

B.C. RCMP stop cyclist with no helmet, find out he’s wanted for murder

Kyle Antonio Dias, 19, to face second-degree murder charge in Toronto

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation welcomes new leader

Teri Mooring will take over as president this summer

Disappearance of Merritt cowboy now deemed suspicious: police

Ben Tyner was reported missing when his riderless horse was discovered on a logging road

Most Read