Saturday, January 21, 2006

Benedict to Turin Prelate: Let the Games Begin

Yes, the Olympics are coming again -- and to Italy, no less.

The XX Winter Olympic Games begin in Torino on the evening of 10 February. They're the biggest thing to hit the northern city since the Shroud.

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, as shown above, the Olympic flame showed up at the Pope's window to be blessed, and today a message was released by the Holy See containing the papal greetings and good wishes to the city's archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto, in anticipation of the Games' opening.

Below is Whispers' exclusive translation of the message text:

To the Venerable Brother
Archbishop of Turin

With great pastoral haste, you have asked some priests to give life to appropriate spiritual initiatives on the occasion of the 20th edition of the Olympic Winter Games, which take place in February 2006 at Turin and in other parts of the region, comprising the populations of the Dioceses of Turin, Susa and Pinerolo. Such an important event will bring together from each part of the world numerous athletes, sporting officials and assistants, not to mention so many members of the press. Alongside this, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you, Venerable Brother presided over a special Eucharistic celebration in the Sporting Arena of Turin, during which you presented the torch which for the rest of 2005 remained close to the Diocesan sanctuary of Our Lady of Consolation. Thanks to this, in preparation for the Olympics, the date of 8 December took on an additional meaning than that of the feast, which was known as "A Light for Sport."

For Christians, the reference to light reminds us of the incarnate Word, the light of the world who illumines man in his every dimension, including the athletic one. There was no way in which he wasn't human, except sin, but he was the Son of God, who became flesh without having exploited it. He "worked with human hands, thought with the human mind, acted with the human will, loved with the human heart," as, forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council taught in Gaudium et spes (22). Among the various human activities there is sport which allows itself, as with all others, to be illumined by God, by means of Christ, as the feats which are expressed in it are purified and elevated from being on an individual level to a collective one.

I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, as I also pray that the coming Olympic Games may constitute for believers an opportune time for reflecting, as the apostle Paul suggested to the Christians of Corinth, on the way in which sport also relates to the spiritual life (cf. 1 Cor 9: 24-27). May the manifestations of the coming Olympic be for everyone an eloquent sign of friendship and contribute to restrengthening relations among the people of the world! How can we not recognize all that is necessary in our own time, which has seen humanity marked by tensions which are not in short supply, and not yearn to build a future of authentic peace? I call upon the heavenly intercession of Mary Immaculate, that the light of Christ, which she reflects perfectly with all her being, may fill the souls of all who, in whatever way, will take part in the Olympics. And also, alongside you, venerable brother, to Bishop Alfonso Badini Confalonieri of Susa, Bishop Piergiorgio Debernardi of Pinerolo and to the respective communities of those dioceses, I impart from my heart the requested Apostolic Blessing.

PHOTO: Torino 2006