Polish Priests Ski in Honor of Pope St. John Paul II

News: World News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 22, 2018   

21st annual contest honors the late Holy Father with one of his favorite hobbies

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WISŁA, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - An annual skiing competition in Poland has Catholic priests for most of its participants.

The winner of the contest receives the John Paul II Cup. According to the BBC, 2018 is the annual competition's 21st year in existence.

Pope St. John Paul II was from Poland. Born Karol Józef Wojtyła, he was known as an avid skier during his days as a parish priest.

In the BBC's video report, some contestants are wearing traditional Roman cassocks as they weave to and fro down the slope.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported on the competition back in 2011 whose official title is "Alpine Skiing Championship for Polish Priests and Seminarians."

In 2011, the event divided priests into four age groups and had a separate competition for seminarians. Contestants have a ceremonial ski in their cassocks, then put on athletic garb to compete in the 800-meter slalom.

It is said that once when Pope St. John Paul II was a cardinal, a fellow cleric asked him if it was scandalous for a cardinal to ski. Then-Cdl. Wojtyła replied with a grin that it was not scandalous unless the cardinal skis poorly.

During his time as parish priest and later as the archbishop of Kraków, the future pope would lead young people on hiking retreats out in the country. During the Communists' occupation of Poland, this was a crucial way to catechize the next generation of Catholics without the constraining oversight of the government.

While the late pope was especially a fan of hiking and skiing, he had a great interest in sports in general.

These are virtues that harmonize well with the Christian spirit.

The saint addressed European athletes in 1984 on their return from the Olympics. He began his speech:

Beloved young athletes, your profession as athletes offers you, among other things, also the opportunity to improve your own personal spiritual state. Called as you are frequently to engage in your competitions in the midst of nature, amid the marvels of the mountains, seas, fields and slopes, you are in the best position to perceive the value of simple and immediate things, the call to goodness, the dissatisfaction with one's insufficiency and to meditate on the authentic values that are the basis of human life.

Later in his address, Pope St. John Paul II noted that the self-discipline involved in being an athlete can be applied to the spiritual life. He said, "These are virtues that harmonize well with the Christian spirit because they demand a capacity for self-control, self-denial, sacrifice and humility, and therefore an attitude of gratefulness to God, who is the giver of every good and therefore also the giver of the necessary physical and intellectual talents."

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