Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.
“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”
The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.
The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.
McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.
“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.
Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.
Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”
“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.
“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”
“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”