Runners came from multiple faiths
Participants of 'Via Pacis' race, where amateur athletes comprising of nuns, refugees, disabled, and parents pushing their children, ran the 21-kilometer course were praised by Pope Francis. The race was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture. The pope said he hopes this athletic and cultural initiative fosters peace, dialogue, and co-existence.
About 2,000 individuals participated in the race. About 4,000 people put in their names for the much shorter 5k “fun run.” As per Monsigneur Melchor Sanchez de Toca Y Alameda, about 200 members of the grand mosque of Rome participated. A number of participants came from diverse faiths, including Jewish, Baha'i, Hindu and Buddhist communities. Alameda is the undersecretary of the pontifical council. He also heads the Vatican's sport office section.
Among the participants were 20 Vatican employees. They were dubbed as “the pope's marathoners.” One Swiss Guard completed a half marathon in one hour and 20 minutes. The race began near St. Peter's Square, where the pontiff delivered the Sunday Angelus prayer. He also gave a speech to the assembled audience. In his speech, the pope greeted the race participants. He said that this athletic and cultural effort leads to peace, dialogue, and co-existence. St. Peter's Square was positioned near the far end of the course.
Pope Francis, during his Sunday speech, mentioned the Gospel reading of the day (Mt 18:21-35) where Jesus teaches Peter that Christians should sincerely and always forgive anyone who wrongs them. They must forgive even if forgiving twice is hard. The pontiff told the audience that God, in infinite mercy and love, always wait for the tiniest sign of remorse. The almighty, the pope reminded his audience, always forgives his children.
The pope continued in that vein, saying that as God forgives even the original sin's “crippling debt” with the action of baptism, Christians should forgive all lesser slights and offenses made against them. They must forgive sins which they have suffered from. He said that only those who have profound experience of joy, inner freedom, and peace which comes from being forgiven will be open to forgiving others in turn. He reminded the audience the heavenly father is totally full of love. God wants to provide it to us. However, God can only do so if the hearts are not closed to our love for others.