Pope Francis greets Special Olympics Footballers

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday greeted Special Olympics athletes who are taking part in a Unified Football tournament this week at the Pio XI sports centre here in Rome.

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Speaking to the althletes gathered, the Pope said, “you are the symbol of a sport that opens one’s eyes and heart to the value and dignity of individuals and people who would otherwise be subject to prejudice and exclusion.”

The Holy Father told them that, in these days they would have the opportunity to reaffirm the importance of “unified” sport, “through which athletes with and without intellectual disabilities play together.”

This beautiful reality, he continued, which you carry out with commitment and conviction, nourishes the hope of a positive and fruitful future of sport, because it makes it a real opportunity for inclusion and involvement.”

Pope Francis urged the athletes present to never tire of, “showing the world of sport your shared commitment to building more fraternal societies in which people can grow and develop and fully realize their abilities.”

Universal Language of Sport

Sport, underlined Pope Francis is a universal language and demonstrates the stories of so many individuals, who thanks to it, overcame exclusion, poverty and injury to be an inspiration to others.

The Unified Football Tournament takes place from the 13th -15th October in Rome and each side has 5 Special Olympians and four partner players, all between the ages of 18 and 30.

The event takes place at the Pio XI sports centre with the support of the Knights of Columbus. 9 countries are taking part; they are Lituania, France, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Romania and Italy.