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Global consultation at the Vatican aims to enrich lives through sport

Posted on: November 3, 2016 3:25 PM
Photo Credit: Andy Bowerman / Anglican Alliance

[Anglican Alliance] The first global conference on “Sport in the Service of Humanity” (SSH) took place at the Vatican last month, with 100 guests invited to discuss how sport can be used to enrich lives worldwide. The Revd Andy Bowerman, co-executive director at the Anglican Alliance, attended the three-day conference alongside athletes, coaches, managers and corporate sponsors.

Experts in areas such as sport medicine, psychology and education also joined the discussion. The conference organisers hope to foster a worldwide movement that will enrich lives by helping people to build trust and learn cooperation, foster friendship, live healthy lives, and have fun through sport.

“Sport has the power to teach positive values and enrich lives, everyone who plays, organises and supports sport, has the opportunity to be transformed by it and to transform others,” Bowerman said. “There are many co-relations with faith, in the belief that transformation is possible for everyone no matter where they are or what circumstances they find themselves in.”

In an opening ceremony, Pope Francis said: “We have a responsibility to help and share sports benefits. I wish to encourage all of you – institutions, sporting societies, educational and social organisations, religious communities – to work together to ensure the most vulnerable children can take up sport in circumstances of dignity, especially those who are excluded due to poverty, war or hunger.”

The opening ceremony also featured speeches from the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach. The conference was organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture with the cooperation of the UN and the IOC, and with the support of SSH Founding Partner Allianz.

Since the conference the Anglican Alliance has made plans to engage with the Premier League, the UNHCR and other ecumenical partners to seek to strengthen responses to the refugee crisis – in Europe and throughout the Middle East and East Africa – using football as a tool.

The aim of the conference was to unite people from every faith, nationality and culture through sport, with one goal: to help those who have the most need, especially the marginalised and the disadvantaged, and to encourage everyone to develop life skills, character, common values, and increase their capacity for the enjoyment of life itself.

Participants had a common commitment to the idea that sport has the power to celebrate our common humanity, regardless of faith, race, culture, beliefs, gender and ability. A statement from the conference reads: “Sport can bring us together – to meet one another across borders and boundaries, to learn to compete as friends, to respect and trust one another even in opposition.”

  • Click here to read the full statement from the conference.