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SportsLeader Participates in International Sports Seminar in Rome
The event, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, was focused on finding ways to evangelize the sports world.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, with Albert Assad, national director of SportsLeader for  Mexico.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, with Albert Assad, national director of SportsLeader for Mexico.

Rome, December 28, 2009. On November 6 and 7, the national director of SportsLeader in Mexico, Albert Assad, was one of the speakers at an international sports seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s “Church and Sports” division. The theme of the seminar was “Sports, Education, Faith: For a New Season for the Catholic Sports Movement” and its purpose was to explore the relationship between sports, the formation of the human person, and faith in Catholic athletic associations.

About 90 people gathered at the Villa Aurelia amphitheater for the seminar, upon invitation by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The participants were mainly representatives of sports and youth ministry offices from episcopal conferences, national and international presidents of Catholic associations, and personalities from the worlds of professional and amateur sports. They also represented a wide range of countries, including Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, England, Mexico, the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, and Malta.

Message from the Holy Father

The two-day seminar began with the reading of a message from Pope Benedict XVI, who emphasized the importance of educators who are able to imbue sports with values that foster the
Seminario internacional “El deporte, un desafío pastoral y educativo” organizado por el Pontificio Consejo para los Laicos.
A view of the international seminar in progress.
integral development of the human person.

“Sport possesses considerable educational potential particularly for young people. So, for this reason, sport is of great importance not only when applied to free time but also in the formation of each individual,” he wrote.

“Sport, especially for the young, and when practised with passion and within careful ethical boundaries, becomes a training ground for sound physical development, a school of both human and spiritual values, and a privileged means of personal growth and interaction with society.” The Pope encouraged those present to “continue to encourage sport among the young, upholding its many positive attributes such as its capacity to stimulate a competitive spirit, courage and the tenacity to pursue goals, while rejecting any inclination to cut corners and get involved in what destroys the human spirit, such as doping.”

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko’s address

The opening presentation was given by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. In his address, he highlighted the role of sports associations in the Catholic world as a valuable means for the formation of the young.

“Some in the church see sport as a threat as it can take time away from the sacredness of Sunday, and yet it is important that we begin to see sport as an attraction for young people to be drawn to the Church. Few see the link between sport and spirituality. Yet the relationship between sport and faith dates well back into history.”

He went on to say that “sport is not a secondary activity” but “must be seen as a school of education and respect, able to provide an holistic formation to man. When properly exercised it brings about great human virtues, and, with the help of God, Christian virtues.”

A focus on virtue

The remainder of the first day unfolded amidst presentations and panel discussions focused on the idea that success is not about winning the game, but about living virtue on and off the playing field.

Demetrio Albertini, former professional soccer midfielder with AC Milan and member of the Italian national team, talked about his own career, saying that professional soccer can lead athletes away from “the real world” and that much depends on the formation given by coaches and parents.

“How you deal with professional sport depends on your upbringing. Champions cannot be invented merely on the basis of natural talent but on working day by day in every situation that life presents to an individual. There needs to be collaboration between all people involved in a child’s life – parents, teachers, priests, coaches and team mates,” he said.

The second day of the conference focused on new approaches and educational strategies in sports environments, followed by panel discussions. In this context, Albert Assad presented the principles of SportsLeader’s formation method of one-on-one mentoring between coaches and athletes. He also gave some concrete examples of how the program has changed the lives of coaches and athletes by bringing values and virtue into the world of sports.

Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, concluded the conference, encouraging all Catholics and Christians involved in sports to “be true to your identity and do not water this down.” He went on to say that “at this time in history we need men and women enlightened with faith who can make God credible in this world, men and women who keep their gaze on God and who learn from Him what true humanity is in the world of sport.”

To learn more about how SportsLeader is imbuing the world of sports with Christian values, visit the web site at



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