Saint John Paul II, a sportsman for all seasons | Inquirer Sports
Bare Eye

Saint John Paul II, a sportsman for all seasons

/ 02:38 AM April 29, 2014

The young Karol Wojtyla, Saint John Paul II (canonized on Sunday) did not score a single memorable goal in his years as a school football leaguer. But that did not prevent him from becoming one of his era’s most devoted and beloved sportsmen.

“Saint John Paul II surely will be the Patron Saint of Sportsmen,” wrote Mayor Maloney Samaco of Maasin, Leyte, a devoted follower of the former pontiff, for

“John Paul II, the most popular among Filipinos, was certainly the most sporty of all the popes. He practiced physical culture, and considered sports fans to have their preferences and gladly accepted people who are sports audiences. In his teachings, he included devotion for sports in a large scale,” Samaco noted.


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“Sport is certainly one of the most important phenomena that could pass profound values—commonly understood language. It may be a carrier of the lofty ideals of humanistic and spiritual, if it is practiced in the spirit of full respect for the rules, but it may also betray its true purpose if it serves foreign interests that ignore the central role of a man,” said Pope John Paul II, as quoted by Polish website

As a young boy, the future Pope often performed in the school band and football team, Samaco said.

“He was the first pope to sit in the grandstand of the stadium as a football fan,” Samaco said. “During his papacy, he received dozens of clubs and sports organizations on private audiences. He also welcomed former and active players, including boxer Muhammad Ali and the Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher.”

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The former Cardinal Wojtyla was a canoe and kayak enthusiast and took part in canoeing in the rivers Slupia, Brda and Wda.

He joined numerous hiking in mountain resorts in the Beskid Mountains, the Sudetenland, and Tatra Mountains.


In his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, he built a swimming pool. As long as health allowed him, he swam regularly, skied, ran, and worked out in the gym. He went skiing in the Alps or the Alban Hills.

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Pope John Paul II said the Church considers sporting activity, grown in full compliance with the applicable rules, as an important educational tool, especially for young generations.

“Sport reveals not only a man’s physical abilities, but also his intellectual and spiritual capacities,” he wrote.

In 1984, while at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, he said that sport is not only the joy of life and fun, but also the study of peaceful coexistence, openness to other cultures.

Six years later, he warned against the dangers of modern sport, which are the pursuit of money, commercialization, doping and violence in stadiums.

He stressed that the task of modern sport is to provide young people with values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, cooperation, solidarity.

“The athletes have a great responsibility.

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They are called to make the sport an opportunity for cooperation and dialogue, overcome language barriers, while contributing to the racial and cultural development of the civilization of love, to the emancipation of the poorest countries, without excluding anyone, to promote tolerance, brotherhood and solidarity.”

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