Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday praised the benefits of sport while hundreds of young participants in a Vatican-supported football program played a tournament in Saint Peter's Square.
In front of 26,000 people including senior European football officials, the pope said sport, "if it is practised within the rules, becomes an instrument of education of important human and spiritual values."
"Let this event today revive in each of us the commitment to make sport contribute to the construction of a society built on mutual respect, loyalty and solidarity between all the people and all the cultures," the pope said.
European football's governing body, UEFA is running a program, supported by the Vatican, aimed at assisting young footballers from eastern Europe. UEFA president Lennart Johansson and former French international player Michel Platini attended the general audience with the Pope.