The Pope urged the delegation to foster virtues that provide a model for young people.
This morning Pope Francis received a small delegation from the National Football League that included former Hall of Fame inductees Curtis Martin, Ronnie Lott and Franco Harris, as well as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his wife. Also traveling with the delegation were members from the Hall’s board of trustees. The trip was organized by board member Steve Schott.
Pope Francis opened up his remarks, joking that, “As many of you know, I am an avid follower of ‘football,’ but where I come from, the game is played very differently!”
Pope Francis is well known for his love of soccer, frequently granting audiences to soccer teams, having a special preference for his favorite team San Lorenzo de Almagro from his native Argentina.
He then urged the NFL delegation to put an emphasis on the “traditional values of sportsmanship…both on the field and in your own lives.”
The Pope continued: “Our world, and especially our young people, need models, persons who show us how to bring out the best in ourselves, to use our God-given gifts and talents…to point the way to a better future for our societies.”
In his message Pope Francis also stressed the need to “build a culture of encounter” anticipating the “needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family.”
During the Super Bowl earlier this year Pope Francis sent a video message that was aired at Houston’s NRG Stadium, expressing his hope that the “Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity for the world.”
At the meeting the NFL delegation presented Pope Francis with a signed jersey featuring the number 1 and “Papa Francesco” as well as a signed Hall of Fame helmet.
According to the NFL Hall of Fame it is the first time an NFL organization has met with a Roman Pontiff.
Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ message to the NFL delegation:
Dear Friends, I am pleased to greet you, the members and directors of the American Pro Football Hall of Fame, and to welcome you to the Vatican. As many of you know, I am an avid follower of “football,” but where I come from, the game is played very differently! I thank Mr. Anderson for his gracious words of introduction, which stressed the traditional values of sportsmanship that you seek to embody, both on the field and in your own lives, your families and your communities. Our world, and especially our young people, need models, persons who show us how to bring out the best in ourselves, to use our God-given gifts and talents, and, in so doing, to point the way to a better future for our societies. Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values – in the religious sense, we can say virtues – that have guided your own commitment on the field. Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community. They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family. How greatly our world needs this culture of encounter! Dear friends, I pray that your visit to the Eternal City will increase your gratitude for the many gifts you have received and inspire you to share them ever more generously in shaping a more fraternal world. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you all!