Mourning the Pope
The faithful of the world remember the leader of the Catholic church.
ROME - All sports events in Italy this weekend were suspended in tribute to Pope John Paul II, who died Saturday night while thousands kept vigil in St. Peter’s Square and the faithful around the world reflected on his legacy.
“It was the only decision to be taken,” said Gianni Petrucci, president of Italy’s Olympic Committee.
He had announced the decision hours before the Vatican said the 84-year-old pontiff had died following a long struggle against debilitating illness.
The suspension applies to the country’s top soccer league, a playoff deciding the Italian ice hockey title, basketball and volleyball league games and amateur sports. Auto racing was canceled at the Imola circuit.
The committee said it had asked all national federations to immediately suspend all scheduled events over the weekend “in view of the latest medical bulletins reporting ... the imminence of the Holy Father end.”
The coaches of soccer powers AC Milan and Juventus on Friday had urged that no games be played in view of the pope’s worsening condition.
“It’s fair that the sport is stopped ... there are more important things than soccer,” Cagliari captain Gianfranco Zola said.
Co-leaders Milan and Juventus and third-place Inter were set to play crucial Italian league games Saturday leading to their Champions League commitments next week. Six Serie A games were scheduled for Sunday.
“It was impossible to take the field while the entire world is living with great emotion these hours so delicate for the health of the Holy Father,” Fiorentina captain Angelo Di Livio said.
Milan and Inter are to play the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at San Siro on Wednesday. There was no immediate word on whether this game could be postponed.
Some Formula One drivers preparing for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix expressed sympathy for the pope but ruled out a possible postponement of the race. Among them is Italy’s Giancarlo Fisichella, who drives for Benetton-Renault and won the opening race in Australia last month.
“I don’t think that the Formula One must be stopped ... It’s right to compete,” he said.
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