She founded this organization half a century ago, and today it had a shining moment at the Vatican.
On Friday, Pope Francis met with soccer players in the Special Olympics, commending their commitment to the promotion of inclusion and the dignity of all. “You are the symbol of a sport that opens eyes and hearts to the value and dignity of individuals and people who would otherwise be subject to prejudice and exclusion,” the Pope said Oct. 13. The papal audience was part of the 50th anniversary celebrations put on by Special Olympics Italy. Francis met with around 350 participants of a unified soccer tournament taking place in Rome Oct. 12-15. The event, called “We Change the Game with Play Unified,” involves 120 young athletes, both with and without intellectual disabilities, from the countries of Italy, France, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Romania. The Special Olympics was started in 1967 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the first international Special Olympics Games took place at Soldier Field in Chicago in July 1968. Today, Special Olympics is active in 170 nations; more than 4 million athletes participate around the world. Pope Francis told the athletes that “sport is one of those universal languages that overcomes cultural, social, religious and physical differences, and succeeds at uniting people, making them part of the same game and protagonists together of victories and defeats.”