Wednesday, March 07, 2012

London 2012: The Church Olympics

They called it More Than Gold

And the biblical reference is a verse from Psalm 19: “The judgments of the Lord are more precious than gold, of much gold.”  

The precious metal of which we are speaking, however, is particularly special: the gold in question is indeed that of the medal every child dreams of from the moment they take their first steps on a playground. 

The motto More Than Gold was selected by the ecumenical organization that is helping Christian Churches in Britain engage with the 2012 Olympic Games in London, scheduled from 27 July to 12 August.

Helping your church make the most out of the 2012 Gamesis the typical sport slogan chosen for this organisation which unites Christians of various denominations. 

The initiative has two main objectives: to encourage members of parishes to help organise events and to take the opportunity offered by this great moment of celebration, to convey a spiritual message to their own country and to the world. 

The range of proposals made by More Than Gold to the British Christian community is quite broad and - in the spirit which has been suggested by the IOC for years – looks both towards the Olympics and the Paralympics, i.e. competitions for athletes with disabilities to be held in the same locations from 29 August to 9 September. 

Initiatives range from organizing local parties during the passage of the Olympic torch, to the willingness to host at home the families of athletes who could not afford another type of accommodation.  

One particular proposal is that of the Games Pastors, volunteers who will provide their services to the public in stadiums and other important locations in London that people will be passing through, as a way to show everyone the love of Christ.” 

They will provide information and logistical support like everyone else, but they will do so by following the evangelical tradition of Street Pastors, who look to help from the next as a form of proclamation of the Gospel.

Another interesting aspect of the organisation's initiatives is that of prayer: More than Gold has created ​​a subsidy that can be downloaded from the website for free, through which it has invited all Christians to pray, also communally, for the Olympics, so that they can really be a time of spiritual growth. 

Many hints are offered in passages from the Old and New Testaments: What does it mean for the people of Israel to celebrate an event? Which victory counts? How does a Country accommodate those coming from other Countries? How can people get together and really form one body, as St. Paul suggests?

The English Catholic Church is also participating in the More Than Gold initiative.  And as part of this process, a few weeks ago the Archbishop of Westminster, Mgr. Vincent Nichols visited the Olympic Park, a former disused industrial area spanning over 200 acres in East London which has been refurbished to accommodate competition facilities and residences for athletes. 

“The Olympics and Paralympics - Nichols said - represent a great opportunity for us all. This type of major sporting event generates lots of ideas and successful initiatives, particularly for young people, reminding everyone of the importance of good health, the dignity of our bodies and the fact that attention to our physical well-being has a spiritual meaning. The example of the many athletes who train every day in preparation for these games reminds us that even in our daily lives we need some good habits and routines to get the most from the talent that God gave us.”
The Olympics has also presented the English Catholic Church with an opportunity to launch its own project specific focus on sports:  in conjunction with the London Games in fact, the John Paul II Foundation for Sports was founded above all to make sports a place of education and for meeting people, overcoming existing conflicts in suburbs of large cities in England. 

In addition to coordinating the activities of existing Catholic sports centres, the Foundation is promoting the construction of new facilities in parishes and schools in the diocese of Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood, the three local churches inside the perimeter of which the Olympic races will take place.

Furthermore,  for the 2012 Games the John Paul II Foundation for Sports has set itself the target of revitalizing the idea of the Olympic Truce, the tradition according which in ancient Greece during the Olympics all the wars were suspended. 

To bring this back to today's world an event is being organized in Trafalgar Square for June 9th, exactly 50 days before the Games.  

”We want to encourage a change of culture: from conflict to competition - says the chairman of the Foundation, Monsignor Vlad Felzmann - encourage gangs to become teams and show what already today in London is helping young people to achieve peace through sport.”

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