Tim Tebow may have spent a nightmare season with the New York Jets, but now it appears the devoutly religious quarterback is being drafted by a new team, and this time, he may have God on his side. The Vatican extended an invitation to Tebow and NBA basketball star Jeremy Lin to participate in a religious conference designed to “help bring ethical values back to a scandal-ridden world of sports.”
According to The Catholic News Service, the Pontifical Council for Culture announced its plans to host a “We Believe In Sports” international conference as means to promote values and ethics in the world of athletics. The top governing bodies in international sports, including FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football), the International Cycling Union and the Italian National Olympic Committee, have been invited to participate.
Many of the world’s best known athletes will be receiving invitations, in addition to Tebow and Lin. According to the promoter of the conference, the world of sport has lost its focus on fair play and friendly competition. Today’s athletes live in a high pressure universe that puts success and profits ahead of moral values and human decency.
The Vatican plans to invite top level professional athletes who are able to successively combine their careers with a healthy lifestyle that promotes faith in God. Tebow is famous for his outspoken Christian advocacy, including his habit of “taking a knee” in prayer after every game.
Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the Pontifical council’s Culture and Sport section, hopes to prove by the example of famous Christian athletes that sports and faith are compatible. The outspoken priest said he was motivated to action by the disturbing recent scandal involving Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles over allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs.
On a lighter note, the church also intends to encourage members of the Vatican to participate in a public sporting event during the conference. Once a competitive modern pentathlete, Sanchez de Toca will host a “Race of Faith” during the gathering; a 100-meter jog, shuffle or sprint up the Via della Conciliazione toward St. Peter’s Square, featuring both athletes and religious leaders. The Msgr. told reporters, “We want to see lots of cardinals in tracksuits, too.”
While there is little likelihood we will see elderly Roman Catholic Cardinals dashing up the Via della Conciliazione in tracksuits, the conference does have two serious goals according to Msgr. Sanchez de Toca:
“First: to help put healthy values back into sport and counteract the current market logic, because if the current state of affairs continues, all is lost.”
“Second: to help the church see sport as an important resource for future priests, Catholic schools, parishes and catechists.”
Bruce Wawrzyniak, co-founder and director of the Catholic Sports Association, spoke in support of the Vatican’s efforts to “instill values in athletics:”
“Sports are great because you learn to work within a team concept. In today’s day and age of childhood obesity, sports get kids off the couch and into something that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Sport also breaks down barriers, whether cultural, religious, political, or economical. The athletes – especially in international competitions – can unite through the game that they are playing.”