Seattle University’s Patrick Kelly, S.J. Serves as Expert Contributor to New Vatican Document on Sports in Society

Recently, the Vatican released its first ever document about sports.  The document deals with such topics as sport and the integral development of the person, the relationship of sport to the common good and the building of the unity of the human family. Published by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, and entitled “Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person,” the document includes an introduction written by Pope Francis. Francis points out that because participants in team sports have to work closely with others in order to play well, they learn how to be part of a community:

The need for others includes not only teammates but also managers, coaches, supporters, the family; in short, all those people who, with commitment and dedication, make it possible to ‘give the best of oneself.’ All this makes sports a catalyst for experiences of community, of the human family.... We reach great results, in sports as in life, together, as a team.


Patrick Kelly, SJ, an associate professor of theology at Seattle University, served as an expert contributor to the revision of the document and spoke at the press conference for its release on June 1 in Rome. After the press conference, Fr. Kelly was interviewed by Salt and Light Catholic media, where he called to mind Pope Francis’ image of Jesus knocking on the door from inside the church wanting to get out into the world to be with the people. The Church was attempting to do this with this document, he said.  He also spoke about a Catholic “play ethic” and the relevance of the document for North America. In a recent article in America Media, he points out that the Catholic tendency to accept sport historically has been supported by an understanding of the person as a unity of body, soul and spirit and the view that a virtuous life needs play and recreation.

Press Conference for the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Photo copyright by the Dicastery and accessed via the Flickr Creative Commons

The full text of the Vatican document, 52 pages in total, can be accessed here. Created in 2016 by Pope Francis, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is directed by Prefect Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell.

More information about the document can be found in an article written by the National Catholic Reporter.

Father Patrick Kelly, S.J., is associate professor of theology and religious studies at Seattle University. He is the author of Catholic Perspectives on Sports: From Medieval to Modern Times and the editor of Youth Sport and Spirituality: Catholic Perspectives.

The cover photo is featured courtesy of Alexander Cook of USF's donsathletics.