BY SIMON MARTELLI
As Poland crashed out of the World Cup this week, John Paul II declared that those who play football should be "witnesses of fraternity".
Addressing a large group of youths at a street championship organised by the Italian Football Federation, the Holy Father exhorted participants in football, and other sports, to promote Christian values and initiatives, drawing particular attention to those in favour of children's rights.
His remarks coincided with scenes of appalling violence in Moscow's city, centre following Japan's 1-0 victory over Russia in Yokohama, which left one man dead and more than a hundred injured, some critically.
It is not the first time John Paul II has spoken of sport's potential to overcome differences between nations.
In October 2000, to mark the Jubilee of Athletes, he initiated a football match between Italy and a team of foreigners selected from Italy's Serie A with a Mass at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
"Sports can make a valid contribution to peaceful understanding among peoples and help the worldwide spread of the new civilisation of love," said the Pontiff, himself no stranger to football, playing as a goalkeeper in his youth. The matches last Sunday were played on 30 improvised playing fields in Rome's Via della Conciliazione, to "sensitise public opinion about children's rights," as the Pontiff said when he greeted the youths at midday, after praying the Angelus. Members of the Italian Federation of All-Purpose Vehicles who were parked on a side of St Peter's Square responded enthusiastically to the Pope's call for fellowship by sounding their horns.
John Ryan — Page 7