International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach presented Pope Francis with the Olympic Order in Gold today at the Vatican.
The award was offered to the Pope and accepted in recognition of his understanding of the good that sport can do for young people and the desire to build peace.
In his address, Pope Francis took up President Bach's theme that 'sport is able to build bridges and break down walls.'
“I wish to encourage institutions such as yours, which promote sports – especially to the younger generations – as a way of training for peace, mutual sharing and harmonious coexistence of people,” Pope Francis said during the ceremony. “Sports tend to unite rather than divide!”
The award ceremony was attended by members of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), including its President and IOC Executive Board member, Patrick Hickey, and presidents of the National Olympic Committees in Europe.
“Your love of sport and your understanding of how sport can be put at the service of society are well known. You have talked of the ‘social responsibility that sports men and women have, both on and off the field, to act as true role models,’” President Bach told Pope Francis during the ceremony.
“The Olympic Games, and the Athletes’ Village in particular, are a place where athletes from all 204 National Olympic Committees can stay together, start to understand each other, and make a contribution to peace building. Indeed, they are a model for a community built on a spirit of mutual respect, peace and understanding.”
“You truly understand the joy in human spirit that sport can bring but just as much the deeper values that it can nurture.”