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Pope Francis urges star athletes to be good role models

Osservatore Romano | AFP
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The Holy Father reminded Italian soccer players how young people look up to them.

In an audience with the players, coaches and staff of the Italian soccer teams Juventus and Lazio, Pope Francis urged them to remember the influence they have on young people.

The Pope said: “I would like to reflect, briefly, on the importance of sport and consider the fascination it exerts and the impact of professional football [soccer] on people, especially young people, towards whom you have a responsibility.”

He further added how a star athlete, “through his behavior, puts all of this into practice, provides a good example for his followers, and this is what I wish for each of you: to be witnesses of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity.”

Pope Francis then lamented the fact that violence often occurs at games and can be a distraction.

“Sadly, episodes of violence sometimes take place in stadiums, disrupting the smooth running of matches and ruining the healthy enjoyment of the people there. I hope that you do everything in your power to ensure that sporting activity maintains just so and, through the personal actions of all, helps to promote cohesion between sportspeople and in society as a whole.”

The two teams were set to play today’s final game of the “Italy Cup” so Pope Francis wished those present a “great match.”

Pope Francis is well known for his love of sports and soccer in particular. His favorite team is San Lorenzo de Almagro from his native Argentina.

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