Vatican City, Aug 3, 2016 / 09:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just two days before the Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Pope Francis offered a message to those who will be competing in the international games. “In a world thirsting for peace, tolerance, and reconciliation, I hope that the spirit of the Olympic Games inspires all – participants and spectators – to ‘fight the good fight’ and finish the race together,” he said.
The Holy Father voiced hope that in competing this year, the Olympic athletes will desire “to obtain as a prize, not a medal, but something much more precious: the construction of a civilization in which solidarity reigns and is based upon the recognition that we are all members of the same human family, regardless of the differences of culture, skin color, or religion.”
Pope Francis offered these words at the conclusion of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Aug. 3. He offered a warm greeting to the people of Brazil saying, “I hope that this will be an opportunity to overcome difficult moments and commit…to working as a team to build a more just and safe country, betting all on a future full of hope and joy.”
During his general audience, the Pope also reflected on his recent trip for Poland, where he attended World Youth Day with some one million international pilgrims last week. As part of the trip, he visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where approximately one million people – primarily Jews – were killed during the Holocaust. Pope Francis reflected on “the great silence” of his time at the concentration camp, saying that it “was more eloquent than any word spoken could have been. In that silence I listened: I felt the presence of all the souls who passed through that place; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God, which a few holy souls were able to bring even into that abyss.”
“In that great silence, I prayed for all the victims of violence and war: and there, in that place, I realized more than ever how precious is memory; not only as a record of past events, but as a warning, and a responsibility for today and tomorrow, that the seed of hatred and violence not be allowed to take root in the furrows of history.”
He noted the cruelties that still exist in today’s world and offered a prayer for peace. But despite the pain and suffering faced by many today, there is hope in the youth, Pope Francis said, pointing to his experience with the young people at World Youth Day. “Poland, with its rich cultural and spiritual heritage today reminds us that Europe has no future apart from its founding values, centered on the Christian vision of man and including the message of mercy expressed so eloquently in the last century by Saints John Paul and Faustina Kowalska,” he said.