Pope Francis meets para-athletes at Vatican

Audience with Pope Francis part of the “Believe to be Alive” events organised by the Italian Paralympic Committee. 07 Oct 2014
Man in white robe walks through a crowd of people, some of them in wheelchairs

Pope Francis met Italian para-athletes in front of 3,500 people attending the Papal audience

ⒸItalian Paralympic Committee

“Believe to be Alive” was the slogan of the events that were staged by the Italian Paralympic Committee in Rome, Italy, from 3-5 October, designed to promote para-sport, para-athletes and the whole Paralympic Movement in Italy.

The weekend started off with the first edition of the Italian Paralympic Awards on Friday (3 October). Awards were given to athletes, coaches and the media for their achievements for sport for people with an impairment. Para-swimming European champion Cecilia Camellini and para-cycling world champion Alex Zanardi were amongst the award winners.

On Saturday (4 October) Pope Francis met with Italian para-athletes in front of 3,500 people attending the Papal audience. Pope Francis said: “Bring a message of hope and encouragement. Through competition, disability turns into a message of encouragement to those who live in similar situations.

“The sport is an invitation to foster a culture of inclusion and to overcome the barriers that are outside of us, and especially within us.

“The sport helps us to live the differences, to make them a valuable opportunity for mutual enrichment and discovery, to discover the potential that we did not imagine. In your effort, for a world without barriers for a world without exception, you are not alone”.

The President of the Italian Paralympic Committee, Luca Pancalli, said: “These kids with physical or intellectual impairments, along with their families, are the most authentic witnesses of that love for life that Paralympic sport wants to be the messenger and communicator.

“We hope to grow every day through sport. A winner is only one who never stops dreaming: we continue to do so through sport”.

The “Believe to be Alive” events were concluded with a day of para-sport demonstrations in front of the St Peter's Basilica on Sunday (5 October). People had the chance to try out various Paralympic sports themselves and meet para-athletes.