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Vatican announces setting up of sports desk

Citing this month's Athens Olympics as testimony to the importance sport has in today's world, Pope John Paul II has instituted a sports section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The Vatican has described sports as a "nerve centre" of contemporary culture, as well as a new playing field for evangelisation.

"Today sports occupy a very relevant role, both on the personal level as well as on the global level," said the statement. "The forthcoming Olympics in Athens and the millions of persons around the world who will follow them are yet again a clear sign of how much sports are an important element in the life of our societies."

"On the other hand, tendencies that have distanced more and more the practice of various disciplines from the original ideals of sports pose with urgency the need to appeal to fundamental values in this field."

According to AAP, the Vatican didn't say what disturbed it. But violence inside and outside stadiums, doping scandals and game-fixing probes which have grabbed much of the sports headlines in recent years are at odds with values the Church promotes.

"The church, which has always shown particular attention to various and important sectors of human coexistence, is called upon without doubt to pay attention to sports, which certainly can be considered one of the nerve centres of contemporary cultures and one of the frontiers for new evangelisation," the Vatican said.

The pontiff has told the new department to work to favour a "sports culture which promotes a vision of sports activity as a means of integral personal growth and as an instrument in the service of peace and brotherhood among peoples," the Vatican said.

Another task will be encouraging initiatives highlighting Christian life among athletes.

The Vatican expressed hope that the new division would help sports management, fans and athletes to "promote sports practices that know how to mesh, with constructive spirit, the complex needs sparked by cultural and social changes in this century with the needs tied to the dignity of the human person."

"Only then can sports be a school of virtue and an instrument of peace among peoples," it said.

Pope establishes sports dept (AAP/Seven News 4/8/04)

Vatican Sets Up Sports Department (The Guardian/Associated Press 3/8/04)
New Vatican Office to Put Soul Back Into Sports (Reuters 4/8/04)
Pontifical Council for the Laity
Pope, at audience, adapts to relaxed pace of August in Italy (Catholic News Service 4/8/04)
Elite Priests Deployed for Olympic Spiritual Needs (Reuters 2/8/04)
Olympic liturgy launched ahead of games (Ekklesia 3/8/04)
Pope says Olympics help promote healthy attitude toward sports (CathNews 28/6/04)
Pope underlines value of sport in spiritual formation (CathNews 19/9/03)

5 Aug 2004