Vatican takes to track with own running club
Five years after plunging into the world of googlies, square leg and spin bowling with the formation of its own cricket team, the Vatican has founded its first-ever athletics association.
Launched on Thursday, the running club consists of 60 members, including soldiers from the Swiss Guard, employees of the Vatican City State, officers from the gendarmerie, the city state’s tiny police force, priests and nuns.
Inspiration for the track team came from a group of Vatican employees who meet regularly along the banks of the Tiber, which curves through Rome just a few hundred yards from St Peter’s Basilica.
The youngest club member is a 19-year-old Swiss Guard, while the oldest is a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican's Apostolic Library.
Aside from working up a sweat, the aim is to use sport to promote inter-religious dia- logue and understanding.
It could be a while before the Vatican’s yellow and white flag flutters over the Olympics, but the Holy See team plans to participate in other competitions, such as the Mediterranean Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe, open to countries with fewer than one million people.
Giovanni Malago, the president of the Italian Olympic Committee, welcomed the formation of the association.
Muslim migrants have been allowed to join as honorary members of the association, in accord with Pope Francis’ support for asylum seekers.
The Vatican formed its own cricket team, the St Peter’s XI, in 2013 and it has since toured England, competing against local clubs and Church of England teams.
It recruits from Catholic priests and seminarians in Rome who come from cricketloving nations such as India, Pakistan, Australia, England and South Africa.