Vat­i­can takes to track with own run­ning club

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News - Nick Squires

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.

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