A Vatican cyclist is spreading the Pope’s message to the world | Pro IQRA News

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VATICAN CITY (AP) – A flat white helmet resembling the pope’s pontiff.

The crossed key seal of the Holy See is stamped on his white and yellow T-shirt above his heart.

Dutch-born cyclist Rien Schuurhuis will have a big sense of duty when he races for the Vatican in the road race at the world cycling championships in Wollongong, Australia, on Sunday, marking a first in the city-state’s growing use of sport as a tool for dialogue. , peace and solidarity.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Schuurhuis told The Associated Press by phone from Australia on Friday. “I think the real emotion is yet to come when I stand on the starting line.

Schuurhuis added: “This is a great first step in the direction that the Pope believes he will achieve through sport (with inclusion and fraternity).” “Everyone is equal on the field of sports, or in this case on the roads, regardless of background, religion or age.”

Vatican athletes have recently participated as non-scoring competitors in the Games of Small States of Europe and the Mediterranean Games, which are open to countries with a population of less than 1 million.

After the International Cycling Union was recognized as the 200th member of the Holy See last year, the cycling world is celebrating the first time a Vatican athlete will compete as a regular points competitor.

“As Pope Francis said when he met a group of riders in 2019, the great thing about cycling is that when you fall behind because you fall or get a flat tire, your teammates slow down and help you catch up. the main package,” said Athletica Vaticana president Giampaolo Mattei, who oversees the team. “It’s something that generally needs to be done.”

Schuurhuis, 40, qualified for the team because he is married to Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican, Chiara Porro.

He holds Dutch and Australian passports, but athletically he now represents the Vatican.

“I could ride a bike before I could walk,” Schuurhuis said of growing up in the cycling-loving Netherlands.

Schuurhuis had previously raced in the UCI’s Continental Circuit, a step below the elite World Tour.

“He is a good cyclist. It’s a high level,” said Valerio Agnoli, Schuurhuis’ volunteer coach and former teammate of Grand Tour winners Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.

Schuurhuis, whose day job is now running a company that supplies materials for 3D printers, trains on the congested roads of Rome. He sometimes goes to the Albanian hills, where the Pope’s traditional summer residence is at Castel Gandolfo.

Except for recent photos, Schuurhuis doesn’t really walk around the Vatican.

“I think I did it once with my son,” she said. “But actually, you are not allowed to cross St. Peter’s Square. That’s why I think the police insulted us.”

Schuurhuis does not expect to come close to victory. Its main purpose is to spread the pope’s message.

When he attended a church event with local Australians on Friday, or when Belgium’s Wout van Aert sought him out during training the day before.

“When people see that very special white and yellow jersey, they’re intrigued,” Agnoli said.

Agnoli noted how cycling takes place on open roads, passing by people’s homes and not limited to paying ticket holders at a stadium or arena.

“That’s the best thing about cycling,” Agnoli said. “I was chosen by the Vatican for this job because my role as a cyclist was as a team assistant. I helped my teammates win the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.

In another example of values ​​held in cycling, Mattei pointed to how Gino Bartali, the 1938 Tour de France winner who smuggled forged documents into the frame of his bicycle to save Jews during the German occupation of Italy in World War II, is now valued. Beatification by the Vatican, the first step to possible sainthood.

Vatican officials want to send a team to the Olympics one day.

“Going to the Olympics requires the creation of an Olympic Committee and recognition by the International Olympic Committee,” Mattei said. “It takes time.”

Competing in the world championships is a big step towards participation in the Olympic Games.

So will the Pope watch Schuurhuis on TV?

“The time difference is a problem,” Mattei said, noting that the race in Australia starts at 2:15 a.m. Vatican time and that Pope Francis is visiting the southern Italian city of Matera on Sunday. “But maybe he’ll watch it again.”

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Andrew is at Dampf https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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