Vatican City, Jun 8, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has teamed up with Olympic athletes for a charity auction this month to support hospitals in the regions of Italy hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Three-time world champion cyclist Peter Sagan donated a custom racing bike with the Vatican crest and colors for the pope’s fundraiser, and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Sofia Goggia autographed ski racing boots.
Other athletes, such as Italian runner and record holder Filippo Tortu, are offering the opportunity for a day of training, followed by dinner. The Olympic rowing duo Giuseppe and Carmine Abbagnale are auctioning off a dinner for two together with them near Sorrento.
All sports memorabilia and experiences are being auctioned off online in the “We Run Together” collection at the Charity Stars website starting June 8. Earlier auctions on the Charity Stars site have raised more than $2.2 million to aid the fight against COVID-19.
Online bidding for current items will run through June 18 with other Vatican Athletics celebrity sports auctions scheduled to take place throughout the summer. All participants in the auction will be automatically entered to win a Vatican jersey signed by Pope Francis.
“We Run Together” is a charity initiative organized by Vatican Athletics in collaboration with several Italian organizations to support hospitals in Brescia and Bergamo, cities in the Lombardy region where there have been 90,195 cases of COVID-19, and doctors are continuing to treat 19,420 positive cases as of June 8.
Pope Francis met with the organizers of “We Run Together” at the Vatican May 20. The organization had originally planned a day of sports pairing Olympic and professional athletes with people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people, but the May 21 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Tomorrow you can’t run with your legs, but you can run with your heart,” Pope Francis said in response to changing the sporting event into a charity sports auction.
“All proceeds will be donated to the health personnel of the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo and to the Poliambulanza Foundation in Brescia, both symbols of the fight against the pandemic that has hit the whole planet. It is an initiative to help and thank doctors, nurses and hospital staff. They are heroes! They are all living their profession as a vocation, heroically, putting their own lives at risk to save others,” the pope said.
Pope Francis met several of the athletes participating in the We Run Together auction. Besides Peter Sagan and Sofia Goggia, other athletes taking part in the charity auction include Olympic gold medalist swimmer Federica Pellegrini, former Roma soccer team captain Francesco Totti, Paralympic cyclist and former Formula 1 racer Alex Zanardi, fencers Valerio Aspromonte and Carolina Erba, and the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team.
“I encourage you, dear friends and dear athletes, to live your passion more and more as an experience of unity and solidarity,” the pope said.
“It is specifically the true values of sports that are particularly important in facing this period of the pandemic and above all, the difficult aftermath. And in this spirit I invite you to run, together, on the track of life.”