Pope John Paul II, for whom soccer was a passion in his youth, explained that the Church "considers sports as an instrument of education when it fosters high human and spiritual ideals; when it forms youth in an integral way in values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, solidarity and peace."

"Surmounting differences of cultures and ideologies, sports offers an ideal occasion for dialogue and understanding among peoples, for building the desired civilization of love," the Pope added.

The Holy Father…appealed "to put into practice these values, based on the dignity of the human person, in face of possible interests that might darken the nobility of sports itself."

Pope John Paul II
Castel Gandolfo, Italy,

Sept. 16, 2002 (ZENIT)