Pope hails Vatican sprinters as 'spiritual athletes'

Men take part in the "100 Metres of Running and Faith" event in front of St Peter's square on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013, at the Vatican. Catholic faithful sprinted along the main avenue leading to the Vatican on Sunday in an unusual initiative h
Men take part in the "100 Metres of Running and Faith" event in front of St Peter's square on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013, at the Vatican. Catholic faithful sprinted along the main avenue leading to the Vatican on Sunday in an unusual initiative hailed by Pope Francis as showing that believers were "spiritual athletes". -- PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Catholic faithful sprinted along the main avenue leading to the Vatican on Sunday in an unusual initiative hailed by Pope Francis as showing that believers were "spiritual athletes".

The Vatican organised the event named "100 Metres of Running and Faith", saying it wanted to highlight the "educational, cultural and spiritual values of the sporting practice".

"Thank you! Because you remind us that believers are spiritual athletes," Pope Francis said in his weekly Angelus blessing from a Vatican balcony overlooking St Peter's Square.

Some 5,000 participants took part in the three-hour event along Via della Conciliazione. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture said the sprint was to be conducted "in a climate of prayer", and participants should "run to bring their message of faith and hope in the world".