Sport “A Sign of the Times” – Pope John Paul II


In his youth, Pope John Paul II was known in his hometown of Wadowice as “Lolek the goalie,” and this love for sport never left him.

He was an active sportsman for nearly seventy years and last week, it was discovered that one of the last Offices he established in the Vatican before his death, was the Church and Sport office at the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The Office’s director Fr. Kevin Lixey told Vatican Radio:

“Pope John Paul II saw sport as a sign of the times, something to engage with and enlighten.”

Unity and community

Whether bringing together different communities at an amateur and local level, or helping to build unity as when India played Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup recently, sport can help construct that most precious of states, communion.

After all, when we support one team or person in any sport, it is surely the case that one of the things we are searching for is that communion. Think of the celebrations that happen in a city if they win the Premier League, or in a country when they lift an international trophy like the World Cup.

Some dismiss this simply as the herd instinct, or an absurd show of jingoism, but the Pope would not have done so, and neither does Fr Lixey when addressing the challenges professionals face and the seriousness of their effect:

“Athletes can be taken away from their home and family at a young age, and money and fame can be thrown at them.

“If they wish to witness to their faith we can help, but with the continual turnover in the people that play professional sport these days, it is important for the Church to meet young athletes.”

The Olympics in London

As a gathering of sportspeople, the Olympic games is unparalleled. It may not get much of a mention come next year’s Olympiad, but there is important preparation going on for Catholic athletes coming to the London games.

As Fr Lixey says:

“Many teams, especially the ones from predominantly Catholic countries, have chaplains, and in the Olympic village there will be services and multi-lingual chaplains.

“In London much has already been done, not only to reach out to the athletes themselves but also to the tourists and those coming to see the games.

“London may not be able to compete with Beijing in terms of spectacle, but they want to build a legacy in terms of the virtues and skills sport can give.”

For a look at some of this work, see the More Than Gold organisation and Catholic 2012. The Holy Father – the skier, mountaineer and goalkeeper, for whom every opportunity to announce the love of God to man was invaluable – would have seen the Olympics as a great opportunity, and so should we.

Of related interest:

DO774 Way of Life for Young Catholics – Written for young Catholics who want to live their faith more deeply but are not sure what steps to take, this booklet contains practical, down-to-earth advice on many aspects of daily life.
John Paul II: The Pope who Made History – A unique and monumental 5-DVD collection that chronologically follows Pope John Paul II’s life, including his childhood in Poland, his appointment as Pope, his most important foreign visits, and his last days.
John Paul II: His Life his Pontificate – his DVD contains two feature-length documentaries: His Life (30 mins) and His Pontificate (60 mins). They consider the two parts of John Paul’s life, before and after his election as Pope.

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3 comments on “Sport “A Sign of the Times” – Pope John Paul II

  1. José Javier Fernández Jáuregui

    April 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm Reply

    John Paul II and sport

    On the occasion of the anniversary of his death on 2nd of April and John Paul‘s Beatification on 1st of May, BRAFA Foundation wants to pay homage to his memory collecting short stories from people who want to share what they learned from him related to the virtues of sport and physical activities.
    In the words of John Paul II: “This is the logic of the sport, mainly the Olympic Games and also the logic of life: without sacrifices we cannot get either successful results or authentic pleasure”. We still bear in mind his testimony, not only when he enjoyed good health but also when he fell ill, and it is within everybody’s reach in his recorded images and writings which can be found checking out the web just by keying John Paul’s name and the word “ sport “.

    Youth, Adults, sportsmen and women, amateurs are all invited to take part in this Competition-Tribute.
    1. The story should deal with any aspect related to sport, which John Paul II’s loved so much as it is a way to love God and build a more fraternal world with effort and happiness.
    2. It cannot be longer than 3 one-side sheet, one and a half-spaced typed and font size “11”.
    3. Contestants from any nationality can take part in.
    4. Each contestant can only submit one story.
    5. Stories must be original and unpublished.
    6. Stories should be sent to:, writing the contestant’s name and address.
    7. Stories admission will start on 2nd of April and finish on 8th of May
    8. Prizes: There will be three winners. Each of them will win a pack of sports material which will be sent to their home address. Brafa foundation reserves the right to publish the stories.
    9. The best ten stories will be published at
    10. The jury will be formed by experts at physical education and sports. Its verdict will be not be open to appeal.
    11. The jury’s decision will be announced on 22nd May 2011 and the name of the winners will be published at, where the details of the contest can be consulted.
    12. Participation implies the acceptance of the bidding conditions.

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