Pope Francis: Teamwork and fair play needed off the field as well as on

AP

Pope Francis welcomed a contingent from the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the Vatican on Wednesday for what the Hall calls the first such meeting for an American sports organization.

The group, which included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Hall of Famers Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Ronnie Lott, Jim Taylor, Franco Harris and Floyd Little, presented Pope Francis with a Hall of Fame jersey and a gold helmet. The pontiff opened his remarks with thanks to the group and a joke about being a lifelong fan of what much of the rest of the world calls football before moving on to share what he thinks society can learn from football.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values — in the religious sense, we can say virtues — that have guided your own commitment on the field,” Pope Francis said. “Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community. They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family. How greatly our world needs this culture of encounter!”

Doleman called meeting Pope Francis “one of those life-changing moments” and Jones called it “magnificent” to have the pontiff “recognize pro football.”