In an Olympic first, the Vatican has been invited to attend an IOC session next week ahead of the Pyeongchang Games in an observer role.
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Friday that Monsignor Melchor Sanchez De Toca Y Alameda of the Pontifical Council for Culture will lead the delegation to the session, a series of meetings where Olympic policies are decided.
The delegation will also attend the opening ceremony in South Korea next Friday, like at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Sanchez notes that the 22 North Korean athletes who have been invited to compete in the games amid ongoing tensions with South Korea show that the “Olympic truce allows us to continue to hope for a world without wars.”
In the spirit of friendship, Sanchez will present International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Korean athletes with jerseys from the Vatican Athletics squad, which is made up of Vatican employees.
Even “without the possibility of direct participation in the Olympics by Vatican athletes,” L’Osservatore adds that relations with the IOC are ongoing and will continue with the Summer Youth Olympics in October in Buenos Aires — Pope Francis’s hometown.