ROME – Nuns, priests, Swiss guards, and migrants make up the new Vatican official track team. Their running club started out as a group of friends who ran together along the Tiber. But now the group has their eyes on the Olympics.
Vatican Athletics is made up of sixty runners. Most of them work throughout the Vatican, including carpenters and maintenance workers.
Two Muslim migrants are honorary members of the track team. Twenty year old Jallow Buba is from Gambia, and nineteen year old Anszou Cisse is from Senegal. Their presence on the team reflects Pope Francis’ support for asylum seekers.
“Sport cancels the differences,” Michela Ciprietti, an employee of the Vatican pharmacy who also runs for the team, said during a press conference. “During the races we challenge each other, at the end we hug each other, no matter what your religion or country of provenance.”
Even though their backed by the Italian Olympic Committee, the team’s president Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda knows the Olympics may still be a long way off.
“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games,” Monsignor Sanchez told CNN. He admits it may be a bit of “a long shot.”
Even though the Olympics would be incredible, the track team’s real goal is “to promote through sport messages of solidarity, (and to) fight against racism and all kinds of violence,” explained Ciprietti.
The team’s first event is La Corsa di Miguel, a marathon in Rome which takes place on January 20. They also hope to race in the international Mediterranean Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe.
In addition to their new track team, the Vatican also has an unofficial soccer team, as well as a cricket team.