For the 2024 Olympics, Ile-de-France priests commune in football


Emerging from the left lane, Father Vargas overflows the Parisian defense and with a powerful shot will lodge the ball in the side netting of Father Sébastien's goals, opening the scoring for the diocese of Seine-Saint-Denis.

For their first "Pater Cup", a hundred priests from Ile-de-France wet their jerseys on Monday during a very fraternal football championship between dioceses in the region, intended to sound the mobilization of the Catholic Church in view of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Before the crampons, communion. As a warm-up, the day begins with a morning mass in the parish of Villepinte (Seine-Saint-Denis), a town that will host the Olympic boxing events. Some athletes of the day put on their dawn directly over their sportswear.

"You are told 'eye for eye, tooth for tooth', which can be translated as 'dribble for dribble, tackle for tackle'. And I tell you not to retaliate against the bad guys", warns playfully in his homily Mgr Philippe Marsset, auxiliary bishop of Paris and delegate to the Olympic Games.

At the Georges Pollet stadium, on the lawn flowered with daisies, the tote bags (tote bags) of the Lourdes pilgrimage rub shoulders with cassocks and sandals. The atmosphere is playful: "you are talking to diocesan priests, it's a herd of cats", laughs a participant.

While the bishops and the less young go shooting or pointing on the petanque ground with the local team - "without pastis" - the teams of the different dioceses put on the fluorescent chasubles. A coach leads the warm-up, shouting into a microphone: "Dynamite! Dynamite!"

A new blessing, a song of thanks to God and then the kick-off is given.

"This championship reminds us of the Olympic Games. Our Church is always integrated where there are gatherings of people, it is always close to people", testifies in a sweat Father Alexis Vargas, a Colombian priest who officiates in Seine-Saint- Dennis for five years.

football theology

The rules are slightly adapted for the good cause. We do not whistle for offsides, "unless there is really a camper". A few breakdowns and injuries later, the organizers banned tackles and reduced the duration of matches from twelve to ten minutes.

"We feel that they are priests, they keep their position and are very disciplined", comments on the edge of the field the priest-referee Bruno Sautereau, sharp look of a connoisseur and pendant of a dove over his orange jersey.

Intended to raise ecclesiastics' awareness of the links between sport and religion, this tournament is the first stage of a mobilization campaign by the Church of France for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. "The Gospel is sport", proclaims the slogan official of their "Holy Games" operation.

"Our goal is to ensure that our churches are open (during the Olympics), that they are welcoming, fraternal, festive places. Afterwards, it is up to each priest, each parish to see what it wants to do", indicates to AFP Isabelle de Chatellus, the director of the program.

The clergy aims to mobilize 2.500 young believers during the summer of 2024 to bring the Olympics to life in parish communities and welcome visitors and athletes.

Another axis of the "Holy Games" will focus on the care of precarious people, to allow them to also taste the Olympic festivities through group activities or meal distributions.

A regular player, Father Edouard George often spins the football metaphor in his sermons to the young people of Ermont (Val-d'Oise): "It's both a game, there are rules so there is a law . And then there's the joy, the joy of victory, the joy of brotherhood. For me it's almost spiritual."

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Picture: Svet foto / Shutterstock

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