Vatican Launches Track Team Made Up of Nuns, Clergy, Swiss Guard, and Other Staff
A new international sports team may have a supernatural boost: Vatican representatives announced last week that the city-state has launched a national track and field team.
The group will start with about 60 members, pending official clearance and a health examination required by the Italian government, Father Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, team president and the head of the Vatican’s sports department in the culture ministry, told Runner’s World.
Those members range in age from 18 to 62, and have a variety of professions within the Vatican.
“There’s all types of people—it cuts across the Vatican world. There is one nun, three or four clergy, the rest are lay people,” Sanchez explained. Those lay people include those who work for Vatican radio and newspaper, the fire department, the Vatican archives, and the Swiss Guard.
There’s even one who works on the farm at Castel Gandolfo, a town north of Rome that’s known as the Pope’s summer residence. “He’s a milkman,” said Sanchez. “He brings milk and eggs every day in the morning from Castel Gandolfo to the Vatican City.”
Some of these team members are pretty darn fast. First of all, there’s Michela Ciprietti, who won the 2018 Vienna Half Marathon in 1:22:57.
“She has won several half marathons in Italy, and also 10Ks. She works at the Vatican pharmacy, but her winning has nothing to do with her work at the pharmacy!” Sanchez joked.
There’s also Giovanni Buontempo, an Italian priest who has lived in New York, and runs a mean 10K. “He’s really fast. His name literally means ‘good time.’ It was destiny.”
The team meets up every week or so to train together, but it’s tough, as most members don’t actually live in the Vatican. Instead, they are spread all over Rome, Sanchez said. They often train on the wide running path along the Tiber River, or in sports facilities owned by the Italian police.
The team members—clergy and lay people alike—will compete in an official Vatican team uniform, a royal navy tracksuit with the colors of the Vatican flag, white and yellow, as accents.
Sanchez is clear about the immediate goals of the team. “The goal of this team is to run together and to share our passion for running and for track and field. Then, this small club wants to bring a message of Christian solidarity, joy, and inclusion.”
To that end, the team has welcomed two refugees from Africa into its ranks.
The team’s first official event will be January 20, in a 10K called “La Corsa de Miguel,” a.k.a. Miguel’s Run, which is named after an Argentinian athlete who disappeared while on a run during the Argentinian dictatorship. Members will also be participating in more events of their choosing in and around Rome, including the Valencia Marathon in Spain. Of course, the team members are also big supporters of charity runs and events, Sanchez said.
As for the future, Sanchez has dreams—like seeing the Vatican flag at the Olympics, though he knows that’s probably not a short-term likelihood. What he can look to in the near future? Competing at other international competitions, like the European Small States Games, where team members would face off against others from countries like Malta, San Marino and Monaco.
“I think we would have chances to get medals at those games,” he said.