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Vatican Athletics to participate in first international competition

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Abdelka37 - Wikimedia - CC BY-SA 4.0

J-P Mauro - published on 06/29/22 - updated on 06/29/22

The Mediterranean Games will commence in early July, from the Olympic stadium in Oran, Algeria.

This July, the Vatican’s flag will join those of 26 other nations competing at the Mediterranean Games, in Oran, Algeria. It will be the first international competition attended by Vatican Athletics, a team assembled by Pope Francis in 2019. 

Vatican Athletics

According to a report from the AP News Vatican Athletics is primarily a track and field team. Comprised of some 60 runners, their ranks were drawn from the Swiss Guard, priests, nuns, pharmacists, and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Apostolic Library. 

The team is led by Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez, head of the Vatican’s sports department in the culture ministry. At the launch of the team he said they would compete in events with cultural or symbolic value: 

“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.” The monsignor added, “We might even podium.” 

Sara Carnicelli

This year, the Vatican will be represented by Sara Carnicelli, a professional competitive runner and the daughter of a Vatican employee. Carnicelli has previously run for the Vatican at the European Small States Athletics Championship, held in Malta in June 2022. At this event she placed 3rd in the 5,000 meter dash. 

In Oran, Carnicelli will run in the Half Marathon, an event in which she took 8th place at Telesia, Italy, in 2019. According to her stats on World Athletics, Carnicelli’s best event is the 3,000 Meters Steeplechase, an event that requires runners to avoid obstacles like hurdles and water traps. In 2015 she placed first in the event in a regional Italian competition and more recently she placed 2nd in 2019.

Mediterranean Games

According to a press release, the Vatican was invited to participate in the Mediterranean Games by the Algerian Organizing Committee. It was reported that the International Committee for the Mediterranean Games strongly supported the participation of “the team of the pope.” 

The Vatican delegation is welcomed by Archbishop of Algiers, Jean-Paul Vesco, who also serves as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oran. On July 2, Archbishop Vesco will concelebrate a “Mass of the Nations,” alongside the Apostolic Nuncio of Algeria, a the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Santa Cruz. This is the same site where Pierre Claverie and 18 additional Christian martyrs of the Algerian Civil War were beatified, in 2018.

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