Two international soccer stars, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon, applaud after a news conference at the Vatican Aug. 13. The two helped launch a Vatican initiative to bring together schools from around the world in projects to promo te understanding and solidarity. CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

Soccer stars help launch Pontifical Academy of Sciences' school project

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • August 14, 2013

VATICAN CITY - Immediately after meeting Pope Francis, Gianluigi Buffon, captain of the Italian national soccer team, and Lionel Messi, captain of Argentina's team, lent their hands -- actually just a finger -- to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The two stars took turns Aug. 13 clicking a mouse to launch, the website of the academy's initiative to bring together schools from around the world in projects to promote understanding and solidarity.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said the initiative wants to support projects that educate young people who are "proud of their own culture and aware of the values they share with all."

Schools must prepare the young to be "citizens of the world," who are strong in their own identity and aware of their responsibility to live at peace with others and in solidarity with the poor, the bishop said.

The pontifical academy's project, titled in English "World School Network for the Encounter," is a global expansion of two projects supported by Pope Francis when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires: "Escuela de Vecinos" (Neighbor Schools) and "Escuelas Hermanas" (Sister Schools). Both focus on civic education and participation based on students in richer and poorer neighborhoods sharing their concerns and problems and looking for solutions together.

Jose Maria del Corral, the teacher who runs the programs in Argentina and will help coordinate the global initiative, said the soccer stars' support was a recognition that "young people are playing for their lives and we want to be on their side, helping them."

The website was launched in Spanish, Italian, English and Portuguese and contains information about how to join and the types of projects it is interested in promoting.

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