Thursday, February 04, 2010

From the Sports Desk

Nine days before the 21st Olympic Winter Games open in Vancouver, this morning's Vatican press bulletin included the following message from B16 to the host-city's top prelate, Archbishop Michael Miller CSB:
I was pleased to learn that the XXI Winter Olympic Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games are to be held in the Archdiocese of Vancouver and the Diocese of Kamloops, from 12 to 28 February 2010. As I send my cordial greetings to you and Bishop David Monroe, my good wishes also go to the participating athletes, the organizers and the many community volunteers who are generously cooperating in the celebration of the significant international event.

Such an important occurrence for both athletes and spectators allows me to recall how sport "can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love" (John Paul II, Homily, 29 October 2000, 2). In this light, may sport always be a valued building block of peace and friendship between peoples and nations. I also note the ecumenical initiative More Than Gold, intended to provide spiritual and material assistance to visitors, participants and volunteers alike. I pray that all who avail themselves of this service will be confirmed in their love of God and neighbour.

With these sentiments in mind, upon all associated with the celebration of the XXI Winter Olympic Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
As if the two weeks of competition wasn't enough, Vancouver does bear watching on the church-beat, too -- Canadian Catholicism's Pacific hub has exploded in size over the last two decades, now numbering in excess of half a million members, half of whom are notably of Asian migration or descent.

What's more, the archdiocese's profile was burnished mightily by the 2007 arrival of Miller, a former #2 at Rome's Congregation for Catholic Education (and president of Houston's University of St Thomas) rightly regarded as one of the English-speaking church's brightest minds... and a still rising star, at that.

As Miller's the type who "sends thank-you notes for thank-you notes," his call for "radical hospitality" during the game should be a cinch.

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Closer to home, while it won't be scoring a papal message, all eyes in Stateside sport are on Miami, where the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will face off in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday night.

For starters, here's hoping for a repeat of what happened at the AFC Championship Pre-Game, when Indy's Archbishop Daniel Buechlein led his hometown side onto the field, riding shotgun (above) with the namesake of the Colts' field, local oil magnate Forrest Lucas.

That said, a high-hat showdown's likewise afoot -- with the Indy prelate and NOLA's Archbishop Greg Aymond having booked a wager (pork chops vs. gumbo) on the game's result, given the devout faith of Saints owner Tom Benson, a horde of Crescent City church-folk are reportedly the team's guests for Sunday's game, heading down on the owner's private jet.

The group will be led by Aymond -- the city's first native son to return as archbishop -- and his 97 year-old predecessor, the legendary Philip Hannan, who played a role in the franchise's naming and led an on-field prayer before its first-ever game in 1967.

PHOTOS: AP(1); Archdiocese of Indianapolis(2)