Athletics in the Vatican

02 November 2006

October 13 1905

AT THE Church Congress the Bishop of London [Dr Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram] described his experiences at a football match, where, as a spectator, he shouted himself hoarse in his support of the side in which he was interested. His lordship was not a solitary instance of the ecclesiastic who sympathises with athletics. In England, indeed, the spectacle even of the clerical athlete is a familiar one. But it comes upon us with a sense of amazement that the Head of the Roman Church has just permitted the holding of some athletic sports in the grounds of the Vatican, and was himself present at the performance, making on the occasion an excellent little speech, in which he extolled the benefits of a sane athleticism.

We can quite imagine the horror with which sticklers for Vatican dignity and repose would regard His Holiness’s daring innovation; to ourselves it is not shocking, but only surprising. The present Pope [Pius X], as a matter of fact, has been an athlete himself, and a member of the Alpine Club. Doubtless the memory of his vigorous feats in the past makes the rôle of the Prisoner of the Vatican the more irksome to play, and it would be to him something of a relief from his inactivity at least to see others doing that which his position denies to himself.

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