Pope Francis has sent a message to Nigerian athletes heading to the 2016 Rio Olympics, asking them to fight the “good fight”, aiming not for medals but solidarity in a world “sick with cruelty”.
Pope was speaking to all athletes and officials that will participate at the Games, which Nigeria is also a part of.
“I hope that the spirit of the Olympics can inspire everyone, both participants and spectators, to fight the ‘good fight’ and finish the race together,” he said, citing a phrase from the bible about unwavering faith and the struggle against evil.
The aim should be to “win as a prize not a medal but something more precious: the realization of a civilisation in which solidarity reigns, based on the awareness that we are all one family, regardless of differences in culture, skin colour or religion”.
The 79-year-old Argentine was speaking two days before the Olympic opening ceremony in Brazil.
“The world thirsts for solidarity, tolerance and reconciliation,” he said as he greeted Portuguese-speaking pilgrims during his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
He said he hoped the games would help Brazilians “overcome difficult times and engage in teamwork to build a more just and safer country, betting on a future full of hope and joy”.
Francis spoke of his visit last week to the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, where some 1.1 million people, mainly Jews, were murdered during World War II.
“In the silence, I prayed for all the victims of violence and war. Looking at this cruelty, in this concentration camp, I immediately thought of the cruelties of today, which are similar. Not as concentrated as in that one place, but throughout the world”.
It is a world “sick with cruelty, pain, war, hatred, sadness,” he said.