(Photo: Retuers/Mark Leffingwell/Eric Miller)
In the battle to combat immorality and instill certain values into professional sports, the Vatican says it wants NFL star Tim Tebow and NBA sensation Jeremy Lin on its team.
The Pontifical Council for Culture, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012, has announced its plans to host a "We Believe In Sports" international conference as a way to promote the instillation of good values in athletic events around the world, reports Catholic News Service.
Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the council's Culture and Sport section, also hopes to provide examples of people who demonstrate that faith and sports are compatible, CNS reports, which is why the council has invited Christian athletes like Tebow, the New York Jets quarterback, and Lin, the Houston Rockets point guard, to the event.
Professional sports are too financially driven, the monsignor says, and instead of being an enriching experience they have "reduced people to merchandise." He says American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who according to The Associated Press confessed to Oprah Winfrey in a recently-taped interview that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career, is just one example of a competitor in a "rotten" cycling world where athletes are pressured by commercial interests into using illegal practices.
Representatives from the Italian National Olympic Committee, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the International Cycling Union are to be invited to the "We Believe In Sports" conference. Sanchez de Toca hopes the conference will help the church to see sports as an important resource and also "help put healthy values back into sport and counteract the current market logic, because if the current state of affairs continues, all is lost."
Bruce Wawrzyniak, co-founder and director of the Catholic Sports Association, told The Christian Post via email on Thursday that he supports the steps the Vatican is taking to instill values into athletics.
"Sports are great because you learn to work within a team concept," said Wawrzyniak. "In today's day and age of childhood obesity, sports get kids off the couch and into something that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Sport also breaks down barriers, whether cultural, religious, political, or economical. The athletes – especially in international competitions – can unite through the game that they are playing."
He agrees that high financial stakes in sports can create a "win at all costs" attitude in both individuals and teams. Even in athletic programs for children, he says, parents often take their idea of supporting their children to an unhealthy level.
"We want these youths to know – as they'll see reinforced by the Catholic role models that have been coming on board with us (pro athletes and coaches, and college coaches) – that winning is good fun, however, the true and ultimate victory was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," wrote Wawrzyniak. "If they think that 'if I can only make it to the pros, then I'll be happy,' we want them to see that, in fact, God's love is enough, and He alone can provide a source of happiness that no sporting accomplishment or earthly possession can."
Sanchez de Toca, who was once a pentathlon competitor, says the council would also like to organize a "Race of Faith" during the conference. The race would be a 100-meter-long jaunt toward St. Peter's Square up the Via della Conciliazione, and he says they want to see "lots of cardinals in tracksuits" participating in the race.