The cozy and peaceful atmosphere of the Vatican, in the heart of Rome, was the scene of a conference of which the theme was 'Sport For All: cohesive, accessible and tailored to each person.’ Present during the two days of discussion, the President of the International Judo Federation, Mr Marius Vizer, and that of the African Judo Union, Mr Siteny Randrianasolo-Niaiko, also Vice-President of the IJF, had the honour of meeting his Holiness Pope Francis. On this occasion, President Vizer presented him with an IJF honorary black belt.
President Vizer presented His Holiness Pope Francis with an IJF honorary black belt

Mr Vizer said, “Such a conference, organised in the Vatican and by the Vatican, in the presence of the Pope, is important because it is addressed to the whole of society. In the first place, it was the youngest who were targeted and the exchanges were interesting and rich. As a sports organisation however, we do not only address top athletes but we work at all levels, with all ages and social categories.

Here it was about solidarity and mutual aid, values which are dear to our judo family and which are a vehicle for peace and the development of a fairer world.

The ‘Sport For All’ conference is a great initiative. It brings together all the major institutions in the world of sport which work to create conditions for a better society.

His Holiness Pope Francis and Mr Siteny Randrianasolo-Niaiko

Mr Siteny Randrianasolo-Niaiko said, “What the world needs the most right now is peace. We have all suffered a lot because of the pandemic and today’s situation continues to weigh on our shoulders, especially in the poorest countries, like many in Africa.

I do believe that sport is one of the keys to bring peace. I grew up in judo with our moral code. As NOC President in Madagascar, I have learned how important sport is to bring people together and I have learned in judo that we must work with all other people and respect them.

I was particularly happy to meet his Holiness Pope Francis. He is a great man and I was impressed by his humility. This is really something, to meet the pope, who is such a great leader. His message about sport is very powerful. I have the feeling that in judo and with judo we have already done a lot and I feel much of his message to the world meets our line."

Thursday 28th and Friday 29th September brought together 180 representatives from 40 countries during numerous working sessions, concluding with the signing of a joint declaration, presented by Pope Francis himself, before an audience of international leaders, including the IOC President, Mr Thomas Bach. Because it was a question of being concrete and practical, there were also 106 ideas and propositions that were put forward during the group working sessions, propositions which will be the subject of future discussions.

His Holiness Pope Francis and Mr Envic Galea

Several topics were discussed during the conference, including those of intergenerational solidarity and mutual aid for those who suffer the most, with the common vision that sport can play and must play an important role. It was emphasised that all future development must be done without any form of discrimination.

Also present at the Vatican were Mr Envic Galea, Director of the IJF Academy and Nicolas Messner, Judo for Peace Director, who were able to share their experiences in the field, continuing to build important relationships for the IJF’s future projects.

The two days in the Vatican were useful and fruitful. Our judo family felt part of a global sports family that acts every day and works to offer better chances to future generations. The conclusions were very positive, presenting an optimistic vision for the future of humanity. Sport can and must play a central role in the giving of hope to those who need it the most and judo will for undoubtedly continue to be active at all levels to promote its values and promote the ideals of Jigoro Kano.

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