Pope Francis received a delegation of swimmers in the Vatican on the occasion of the traditional Rome meet Trofeo Sette Colli. The delegation was headed by LEN and Italian Swimming Federation President Paolo Barelli and included some of the brightest stars like Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED), Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) and Chad le Clos (RSA).
In his speech LEN and FIN President Paolo Barelli emphasised that “the presence of the Italian and international swimming family in this magnificent hall is particularly moving for all of us, who are here in representation of the 1000 participants at the Trofeo Sette Colli who will symbolically unite the whole world in between the lanes of the Foro Italico.”
Mr Barelli spoke about the values uniting the swimmers around the world. “Holiness, we sportspeople, all speak the same language; we share the same values: the development of mankind, reciprocal tolerance which grows into meaningful solidarity and sustainment, the vanquishing of all barriers, the building of all bridges.”
He added, “we come from all the Continents, to give witness of the world we wish to see. We will always remember that a year ago quoted the words of San Francesco d’Assisi and to this Holy Father added a thought we all share: ‘Water is life, no life exists without water.’”
President Barelli thanked Pope Francis for receiving the swimmers in the Vatican. “Your attention strengthens our intentions further; the Blessing we plead you for will further encourage us to follow the road leading us to the values of the faith, of sport and of solidarity amongst peoples.”
In his message, the Pope began with the following thoughts: “Like any sporting activity, if practiced with loyalty, swimming becomes an opportunity for formation in human and social values, to strengthen the body together with character and will power and to learn how to know and accept each other as companions.”
He noted that apart from achieving technical results, swimmers also offer a testimony of discipline, healthy competition and teamwork. They demonstrate that goals can be reached through training efforts that call for great commitment and also sacrifices. “All of this,” the Pope said, “is a lesson in life especially for your peers.”
While hailing the importance of teamwork, His Holiness also devoted thoughts to other aquatic disciplines like water polo and synchronised swimming. In this regard, the Holy Father recalled Noemi Carrozza, the 20-year old star of the women’s synchro team of Italy who died in a road accident in Rome on June 15. The Pope said he prayed for her and her family.
Stressing that the language of sports is universal and easily reaches new generations, Pope Francis encouraged the swimmers to “send positive messages” through their activity, thus “contributing to improving the society in which we live.”
Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia