Athletes Hit the Streets in Rome for the “Race of Faith”

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

–Timothy 4:7

As the sun rose over the Eternal City last Sunday, the cobblestone streets of Rome were transformed into a racetrack for a unique event:  the Race of Faith.

A temporary three-lane track was laid along the Villa della Conciliazione, carving out a 100-metre track on which a few hundred people raced toward St. Peter’s Square.  Among the racers were seminarians and sisters, Vatican guards, children, and people with disabilities.  Several professional athletes were among the crowd of runners, including Jason Gardener, British indoor sprint champion and winner of the 2004 Olympic medal, and Andrea Bartali, son of the late Italian champion cyclist Gino Bartali.

The race and the three-hour program which followed were organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture as part of the Year of Faith.  Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca Almeda, who leads the council’s Culture and Sport section, explained that St. Paul had frequently compared the faith life to a race.  Runners in the relay races, he noted, passed a baton to another, just as believers pass the gift of faith from one person to another.

Pope Francis, addressing the crowd of racers and others gathered for the Sunday Angelus, said that “the believer is an athlete of the spirit.”

Concurrent with the Race of Faith was a one-day conference for sports educators and representatives from Catholic sports associations and bishops’ conferences, who were brought together at the Vatican to discuss how the Church can encourage the sports world to better protect human dignity.


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