For the European Championship of football — taking place from 8 June to 1 July in Poland and Ukraine — the Pope sent a Message to the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. The following is a translation of the Message which was written in Polish.
Mons. Józef Michalik
President of the Polish Episcopal Conference,
Soon the European Championship of football, to be held in Poland and Ukraine, will begin. This sporting event involves not only the organizers, athletes and fans — in different ways and in different fields of life — but all of society. The Church does not remain indifferent to this event, especially to the spiritual needs of those who take part. With gratitude I welcome the news of the catechetical, liturgical and prayer meetings planned.
My beloved Predecessor Blessed John Paul II said “the potential of sports makes it a significant vehicle for the overall development of the person and a very useful element in building a more human society. A sense of brotherhood, generosity, honesty and respect for one’s body — virtues that are undoubtedly essential for every good athlete — help to build a civil society where antagonism is replaced by healthy competition, where meeting is preferred to conflict, an honest challenge to spiteful opposition. When understood in this way, sport is not an end, but a means; it can become a vehicle of civility and genuine recreation, encouraging people to put the best of themselves on the field and to avoid what might be dangerous or seriously harmful to themselves or to others” (Address to participants of the International Convention on Sport, 28 October 2000).
The team sport, such as soccer, is an important school for teaching a sense of respect for others including opponents, the spirit of personal sacrifice for the good for the whole group, the enhancement of qualities of each person which forms the team; in a word, how to overcome the logic of individualism and selfishness which often characterizes human relationships, in order to make room for the logic of brotherhood and love, which alone can enable the promotion — at all levels — of the true common good.
With these brief thoughts I encourage all who are involved in this event to work promptly, so that this experience may be lived with the noblest virtues and human actions in the spirit of peace and genuine joy. To God I entrust the pastors, volunteers, players, fans and all those engaged in the preparation and conduct of this Championship. To all I impart my Blessing.
From the Vatican, 6 June 2012
Benedict PP. XVI