Thursday, June 12, 2014
In todays column I take a look at two sides of a coin called the World Cup, the every-four-years event that pits teams from around the world against each other in 64 games to determine the world champion in a sport generally known as football but called soccer in the U.S.

The two sides are represented by Pope Francis video message to players, organizers and fans of the World Cup and by the red card given to the event by the Catholic Church in Brazil.

The 2014 FIFA (the international football organization) World Cup starts at 5 pm (local time) tonight in Sao Paulo as host Brazil faces off against Croatia at the 68,000-seat Itaquerao stadium.

Theres also this about the World Cup: You may recall the May 20 story by CNA on the EWTN news page that noted that the U.S. embassy to the Holy See has partnered with women religious in a new anti-human trafficking campaign being launched ahead of July's World Cup in Brazil. This was announced in a press conference in the Vatican that same day. Excerpts follow:

Combating this scourge is an important goal of both the United States and the Catholic Church, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett stated in comments read aloud by the embassys public affairs officer Antoinette Hurtado during a May 20 press conference. The U.S. Embassy is proud to be here today to support Talitha Kums campaign to combat trafficking of persons during this years World Cup.

Announced during the press conference earlier this morning, the new campaign is entitled Play for life, against trafficking, and is being organized by the international organization Talitha Kum. Meaning little girl, arise, Talitha Kum is an international network of consecrated women fighting against human trafficking at all levels, and it has organized this campaign to mirror a 2010 initiative that was launched in South Africa with the same goals.

In his address, Hackett observed how both Pope Francis and U.S. officials have spoken out against the trafficking of persons, with the pontiff referring to it as a crime against humanity and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that there is no greater threat to human dignitythan the evil of human trafficking.

The article also noted that, In comments made to CNA during the May 20 conference, Sr. Estrella Castalone (who lives in Rome and is in charge of the international organization of the campaign), explained that the reason Talitha Kum chose the World Cup as an occasion to launch the campaign is that there is a lot of human mobility during big events like this and the risk of trafficking becomes greater.

So the main goals, she said, are to raise the consciousness of many young people especially not to accept indiscriminately job offers, and secondly to work so that there might be fewer persons available in the sexual market.

What do we hope for? We hope that those who go to Brazil during the world cup will enjoy the games and nothing else. Not the sexual pressure, not the drugs that have been carried by trafficked young people. Noting how they are all for the enjoyment of the gamesthats why the slogan says play football, in favor of life, but denounce trafficking, Sr. Castalone emphasized that practically thats what were aiming at.

So, let the games begin! And, as Pope Francis says, may they indeed be a festival of solidarity between peoples.


Pope Francis has sent a video message to the organizers, players and fans participating in the FIFA 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil, in whoich he said he hoped that this World Cup can be transformed into a festival of solidarity between peoples. Delivered in Portuguese, the Pope recalled that football tournaments are not only a game but also an opportunity for dialogue, comprehension and mutual human enrichment.

Sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also and above all I would say a tool for communicating values that promote the good of the human person and help to build a more peaceful and fraternal society, said the Holy Father. Let us think of loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing, solidarity. In fact, there are many values and attitudes fostered by football that are not only important on the field, but in all aspects of life, especially in building peace. Sport is a school for peace it teaches us how to build peace.

True to his Jesuit training, Francis said three lessons can be drawn from sports - lessons that can also be used for building peace: the need to train, fair play, and honor among competitors. We can see in sport a metaphor for our lives. In life, you have to struggle, to 'train', to strive to obtain important results. Sportsmanship thus becomes an image of the sacrifices needed to promote the growth of those virtues that build character.

Football, the Pope continued, can and should be a school for building a 'culture of encounter', making peace and harmony possible among people. On fair lay, he said, To play as a team it is necessary to think first of the good of the group, not of oneself. To win, one must overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and the exploitation of the human person. Being greedy, hoarding everything for ourselves, is an obstacle to the successful outcome of a team not only in football; when we are greedy in life, ignoring the people around us, the whole of society is harmed.

The final lesson that sport can provide for peace is respect between competitors; The secret of victory on the field but also in life is learning to respect not only my team-mates, but also my opponents. No one wins alone, on the field or in life! No-one should feel isolated or excluded. And be careful! No segregation, no racism! And if it is true that, at the end of this World Cup, only one national team will lift the trophy as winners, learning the lessons that sports teach us all to be victorious, strengthening the bonds that unite us.


News agencies from around the world have reported on the red card given by the Catholic Church in Brazil to the World Cup that starts tonight in Brazil.

Reuters notes that, Pope Francis may be a die-hard soccer fan, but the Catholic Church has given Brazil's World Cup organizers a "red card" for spending billions of dollars on stadiums while failing to improve the country's notoriously poor public services. In a red card-shaped brochure distributed this week in churches and parishes across the world's biggest Roman Catholic country, Brazil's Bishops Conference urged the Brazilian government to respect people's right to demonstrate against the month-long tournament that kicks off next Thursday."

In soccer, a red card is held up by a referee to indicate that a player is being sent off the field for a flagrant violation. (A player can receive a red card for any one of seven possible offenses and will be made to leave the field. A player shown a "red card" may not be replaced during that game).

Rome Reports, in a video report about the bishops red card, also noted that, For the past few months, Brazilians have taken to the streets to show their dissatisfaction with organizers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, taking place in their country. Their list of complaints is long: from lacking infrastructure, including shortages of schools and hospital beds, to the misuse of public funds to build expensive new stadiums.

As protests and debate continue on the topic, the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops issued a "red card, soccer's most severe penalty, to World Cup organizers.

The "red card, a one page flier distributed online and in Churches, lists eight failures from government and FIFA officials. They include the removal of entire families from buildings demolished to make way for stadiums, destruction of the environment, and rejecting public input on construction works for the month-long tournament.

But, the flier also lists six elements to score the "victory goal during the World Cup: guarantee housing for everyone, protection for workers, especially street vendors, combating human trafficking, and respect for the rights of fans and protestors.

The bishops' conference also expressed their commitment to supporting the homeless, so that they are not "removed from public spaces during the Cup, and then thrown back in the streets, like objects. They also reiterated their participation in the international campaign to fight against sex trafficking.

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