Yes, I have been here before. John Paul II was residing the first time I came. Together with our friends from YMCA Italy and the Training The Trainers’ course of YMCA Europe, where I was working at that time, we saw the Pope on a good distance, at St Peter’s Square.
Next time I was inside the Vatican for the first time. It was an ecumenical theological conference, and Pope Benedict was now residing, and we were actually in the same meeting room. And we had private visits to the Sistine Chapel and to the incredible Vatican Museum.
After that, several years later, I came to Buenos Aires and met with Cardinal Bergoglio. Nobody knew that he would become Pope just a few months later, but he did. When his face turned up in that famous window, everybody said: Who is he? And I said with great surprise: I know him! It is Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires!
See the difference in distance! The Secretary General of the UN and the President of IOC and the CEO of Allianz were all blessing our conference with opening speeches before the Pope declared the Sport at the Service of Humanity-conference for open.
As you can see this is s very ambitious conference, trying to combine the world of sports and the world of faith. Yesterday at the gala dinner (they seem to happen to me every Wednesday night these days :-)) I was sitting together with the Japanese Ambassador to the Vatican and two new Japanese friends representing a Buddhist Centre for Inter Faith. Highly fascinating, and we decided to meet again, since we obviously have shared interests.
I also met three famous Norwegians being guest speakers at the conference, the Minister of Culture of the Royal Norwegian Government, Linda Catherine Hofstad Helleland, Johan Olav Koss, who won three Olympic Gold Medals in 1994 and a famous footballer, Jan Aage Fjørtoft.
As if all of this was not enough, we had an outdoor concert by Maestro Lang Lang – what a treat! And from there we walked back to the Vatican Museum where the mentioned gala dinner was hosted by Allianz. Tonight it is a gala dinner hosted by the International Olympic Committee. But before that we have a long working day discussing important matters for sports and faith!