Pope: Never let children stop being children

Pope Francis commends the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona on its 125th anniversary, emphasising tennis as a means of personal growth through respectful play and urging the club to prioritise the integral development of children.

By Francesca Merlo

Pope Francis on Monday morning welcomed members of Spain’s “Real Club de Tenis Barcelona” as they celebrated the 125th anniversary of their founding as a sports club.

“I am pleased,” the Pope said in his discourse, “to be able to emphasize once again the opportunities that sport offers for the growth of each person and society.”

Speaking about their sport in particular, Pope Francis noted that tennis is not a team sport, and that it therefore “presents an interesting aspect for our consideration.”

“It would seem that the challenge between players has mainly to do with the desire to prevail over the opponent,” noted the Pope.

However, he continued, through the history of the club, it is clear that it is in fact “an expression of the founders’ openness to what good could come from outside and to a dialogue with other cultures, which allowed them to create new realities.”

Pope Francis went on to note that in tennis, just as in life, “we cannot always win,” but that it will be an enriching challenge if, by playing politely and according to the rules, “we learn that it is not a struggle but a dialogue that involves our effort and allows us to improve.”

“On the playing field, as in the field of life, we sometimes feel alone, other times supported by those who play this game of life with us. But, even when we play ‘alone’, we are always in the presence of the Lord, who teaches us what it means to respect and understand others, in constant communication.”

Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis emphasized the great work the team has done in training international players.

“It is a great challenge, but when we work with these children, who dream of an excellent sporting future, the demands of training cannot prevail over their integral growth; there is nothing more important than this human and spiritual development.”

Therefore, he concluded, “take care of children, those who can benefit from the values of sport in complex social environments, and also those who might succeed in high-level competitions. Let them not stop being children!”