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Spain – 1st Conference on Sport and Faith: testimonies, proposals and alliances
(ANS – Pamplona) – On Thursday, March 9, Fr. Litus Ballbé, head of Sports Pastoral Care in the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, inaugurated the First Conference on Sport and Faith, which brought together about 100 people from all over the country to learn about, discuss and propose lines of collaboration in the area of sports pastoral care. The day, celebrated under the motto “Sport at the Service of the Church,” aims to establish itself as a regular event, and was hosted by the Salesians of Pamplona, who also helped organize it together with the Archdiocese of Pamplona and Tudela.
Through various panel discussions and presentations, the Pastoral Care of Sports, recently created by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, was explained, as well as the various initiatives and sports projects that are already being developed in different areas of the Church, such as the Salesian Sports Proposal presented by Diego Pérez Ordoñez. In addition, the seed was sown to seek new ideas and alliances that can be implemented in the future.
This first edition was aimed primarily at the educational and sports community, with the goal of creating a forum for discussion and reflection in which to bring out formulas and strategies for working with sport in the educational sphere, and to offer a broad vision of sport as a commitment, as a space for living the faith, and as a tool for integration and personal improvement.
The first presentation was by Fr. Ballbé, who reported, “If sport is human, the Church must be there.”
Then it was the turn of Santiago Pérez de Camino, Head of the Church and Sport Section of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. He spoke about the Church’s commitment to Sport and invited those present to read the document “Giving the Best of Yourself,” on the Christian perspective of sport.
After these two speeches, a panel discussion was held on “Living Faith in Sport,” moderated by Santi Nolla, Director of the magazine “Mundo Deportivo.” During the speeches, Miguel Ángel Ferrer, professional sportsman also known as “Mista,” offered his testimony telling how he suddenly went from having nothing to having everything, without being happy. “Faith has helped me live differently. Without the presence of God, I would not have been able to go on.”
This was followed by the second panel discussion of the day, entitled “Sports, a means of self-improvement,” moderated by Julián Redondo, president of the Spanish Sports Press Association. During this session, Javeri Tebas, President of “LaLiga,” the association responsible for the administration of Spain’s two professional football leagues, said that it is important to give testimony of faith in one’s activity. “Explaining publicly that you love God means getting out of your comfort zone. It is not easy,” adding that there is a risk of being labeled as “old or outdated.” Then he mentioned the importance of working on the formation of coaches and the
various educators involved in sports, with whom young athletes spend many hours and who become important references for them in their growth. He concluded by stating that professional sports must be experienced as a renunciation and as a performance, but that in this performance faith can be shared, not making it a matter of external appearance, but of coherence.
On Friday, March 10, the first panel discussion, moderated by sports journalist Paco García Caridad, presented “Existing Sport and Faith Initiatives” at the national level, and concluded with the launch of the campaign created by the Brafa Sports Center #NoSeasHooligan.
Next, there was another panel discussion on “Personal and Institutional Sports Commitment,” in which Carlos de Cárcer, founder and director of “Red Deporte y Cooperación,” told the audience how his institution began helping girls orphaned by HIV.
Then, Angelo De Marcellis, president of the Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI) of Teramo, spoke about the long-standing experience of the CSI, and how it promotes a vision of sports that puts the person at the center, in a universe dominated by match-fixing, the primacy of profit, violence on the field and in stadiums, power struggles, doping, and technical selection above all else…
At the close of the day, Fr. Ángel Miranda, director of the Salesian work in Pamplona, invited everyone to “take with us the echo of what we have lived,” and to “leave the old faith, defined as ‘believing in what has not been seen,’ and to take on the renewed faith of those who live it by believing in ‘what will be seen.'”
The meeting concluded with the Eucharist presided over by Archbishop Juan Carlos Elizalde of Vitoria.
All talks and interventions from the panel discussions will be available on the conference website deporteyfe.com.