The Vatican has officially assembled its very first athletic team. Called “Athletica Vaticana,” the brand-new squad is composed of priests, nuns, Swiss guards, and Vatican staff, and aspires to send its members to major international sporting competitions including the Olympics. It launched earlier this month after the Holy See finalized an agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee that authorised the team to compete in nationally and internationally sanctioned events.
Team president Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda explained that the line-up’s origins are humble: “it all started from a group of us that used to run together along the Tiber River,” he says. “The dream is to see the Holy See Flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.”
Athletica Vaticana currently boasts 62 accredited athletes. Its oldest competitor is a 62 year-old Vatican Apostolic Library professor, while its youngest is a 19 year-old Swiss Guard. Asylum-seekers Jallow Buba, a 20 year-old from Gambia, and Anszou Ciss, a 19 year-old from Senegal, have also joined the team as honorary members.
Vatican pharmacist and runner member Michela Ciprietti embraces the team’s founding as a way to “bring people together. Sports cancels the differences. During the races we challenge each other, at the end we hug each other, no matter what your religion or country of provenance,” she stated.
For now, Athletica Vatican will start small, participating in more low-profile competitions like the Mediterranean Games. Their debut event was January’s ten-kilometre race Corsa di Miguel. While none of the Vatican athletes placed, Sister Marie-Theo Puybareau-Manaud who participated in the marathon said, “running as part of a team sends a message of peace, a message that allows us to live our faith through running.” The Vatican has dabbled in sport in the past, establishing the St. Peter’s Cricket Club, comprised of priests and seminarians.