Pope Francis makes surprise visit to Vatican sports camp

Pope Francis greets children in the Paul VI Audience Hall July 20, 2020. Credit: Play It S.S.D. a.r.l.

Pope Francis made a surprise visit Monday to a sports camp for the children of Vatican employees.

The Holy See press office said July 20 that the pope met with the young people shortly after 9 a.m., while they were having breakfast in the Paul VI Audience Hall.

After greeting the children at each of the tables, he visited the play areas within the hall, which include an inflatable slide. 

He then sat with the participants in the “Estate Ragazzi in Vaticano” camp, which is modeled on the oratory of St. John Bosco.

The pope encouraged the children to make new friends. 

“People who only know how to have fun by themselves are selfish. You have to be together, with friends, to have a good time,” he said.

Before returning to his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, at around 10 a.m., he greeted camp organizers individually, thanking them for their work.

Around 100 children aged five to 14 are attending the camp, which is running on weekdays July 6-31. The program includes prayer, workshops, swimming, tennis, table tennis, soccer, and basketball. The activities take place in the Vatican Gardens, at the Vatican heliport, and in the Paul VI Hall, with safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Vatican Governorate set up the camp in response to Pope Francis’ wish to welcome children to the Vatican in the style of the Salesian oratory.

Fr. Franco Fontana, the chaplain of the Vatican Gendarmerie, is coordinating the camp, with the help of the association “Tutto in una Festa,” which runs children’s events, and the Vatican’s Salesian community.

The camp’s theme is “happiness and the beatitudes.”

“We are all called to happiness. We look for it, we all want it even though we know that it is not easy to find or maintain it. But what is true happiness?” the camp website says.

“Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus of Nazareth gave an extraordinary answer. He used eight sentences that all begin with ‘Blessed…’ and are called the ‘Beatitudes.’”