Promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, in the Year of Faith, in collaboration with the National Office for the Pastoral Care of Free Time, Tourism and Sport of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the Italian Sports Center has convened sports leaders from various countries of the world, to spend together a day of testimonies on the link between sport and faith.
On this occasion, on Monday 21 October 2013 in Rome, 25 - 30 participants from the world of sport from all over the world - including the vice president of the Albanian Sports Association (Qendra Sportive Shqiptare - QSSH ) - participated in a seminar held at the headquarters of the Pontifical Council for Culture to discuss the issues: “In the beginning was the game; Sport is for man; Sport reveals man to himself; The value of the body in disability; "etc.
The day before the seminar, after Mass, Pope Francis stopped to greet all the seminar participants and to exchange a few words with them. In fact, on Sunday, in St. Peter's Square a symbolic athletic race was held called "100 meters of running and faith".
The representative of Albania in this seminar was the vice president of the Albanian Sports Association ( Qendra Sportive Shqiptare - QSSH ) and professor of physical and motor education at the Vinçens Prendushi middle school in Durres, Ilija Mujo.
The school complex takes its name from the religious of Scutari, poet, interpreter, publicist, educator and martyr of the faith, persecuted and died in the 1949 under inhuman torture by the Albanian communist regime, in the Durazzo prison.
The Prendushi middle school in Durres was established in 1992 as part of the aid granted to Albania by the Albanian Catholic Church through the Institute of Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence, in Italy.
We ask Professor Ilija his impressions on this seminar and on the meeting with Pope Francis.
Prof. Ilija, I have the pleasure of welcoming you.
Thanks to you for the invitation, welcome back.
I am very happy about this opportunity that is offered to me, to express and share with you and your readers my experience in this seminar and especially the unforgettable sensations I felt in those few moments, during the meeting with the Holy Father.
So what did the experience of this seminar mean to you?
It was a very useful occasion to be able to exchange ideas and opinions through our testimonies and confront each other with all the participants who came from various countries of the world on the important role of sport in society, on its cultural, social and educational function.
This is because sport today is under the threat of commercial pressure and the treatment of young players is often inadequate. In addition to the link between sport and faith, there was also talk of the problem of doping, racism, violence in the stadiums, bets and various negative factors which, unfortunately, are often associated with sport.
Now, could you tell us your impressions from the meeting with Pope Francis?
What did you say?
It was a really exciting time. To each of us, initially the Holy Father asked the country of origin and our role.
I introduced myself as the representative of Albania and the position I hold as vice president of the Albanian Sports Association.
His words were very surprising to me when he told me:
"I know your country. You have a very difficult language to understand "- and he smiled.
"Yes, Holy Father, - I replied - this is true, but we also have a language that is much easier to understand, that of the heart"
"We are waiting for you in Albania." - with discretion, I tried to address this invitation to the Holy Father.
"Why not!" - he replied, always smiling, very polite and communicative.
A simplicity in dealing with people, his, surprising! Not to seem true, the communication of a simple citizen, of any origin, with His Holiness.
It releases a humility and simplicity that leave their mark in anyone who has had the good fortune to make his acquaintance.
Our handshake is very warm. As if there, through the encounter with a single citizen representing another country, Pope Francis intended to convey all his affection and blessing to that entire population.
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