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If only all battles were reserved for, and resolved in, sport

Glasgow was full to overflowing for the Mass with Archbishop Philip Tartaglia at Sunday Mass to celebrate the Commonwealth Games. Athletes and Glasgow 2014 volunteers joined the cathedral congregation for the celebration to hear the Archbishop reflect on the links between sport and faith and the need for dedication and commitment. He also asked the international audience to pray for peace in Gaza.

Many Commonwealth Games success stories have been inspirational this week, perhaps none more so for Scots than the success in the Tollcross pool of Erraid Davies, a 13-year-old Scottish swimmer from Shetland. The teenager, Scotland’s youngest Commonwealth competitor, achieved a bronze medal in the para-sports women’s 100m breaststroke.

From a devout Catholic family, Erriad, who was born in Dundee, was diagnosed with a hip problem at the age of 4, and was in a wheelchair for four years. Swimming has been one of the only sports she has been able to take part in. She swam her first mile before she was six. What a timely reminder the message of Celebrating the Gift in Sport, the international conference hosted by the Church in Scotland ahead of the opening of the Games: that sport and faith can combine to champion the gifts of each person—especially people with disabilities—while promoting values of solidarity and respect.

No doubt avid sports fans will have their own highlight from the Games—Daniel Wallace or Ross Murdoch in the pool; South Africa beating New Zealand in the rugby sevens (all UK teams were knocked out at the quarter finals after all) or even just Usain Bolt turning up.

In the week ahead however, after the friendly Games are over, the centenary of the First World War will be upon us. The recent days of friendly sporting competition in Scotland will jar sharply with the memorial of deadly conflict. While we remember the fallen and those who sacrificed everything during the First World War, let us not glorify war but, as the Holy Father urged, focus on peace, then, and poignantly, now.

Pope Francis marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War by urging countries currently torn apart by conflict to find ‘the necessary strength and wisdom’ to embrace peace.

In the hope that one day all future ‘battles’ will be reserved for the sporting arena, we pray.

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