Pope Francis spoke of the importance of sport in shaping the lives of young people, during MotoGP's private visit to the Vatican on Wednesday.

Riders Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Iannone, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, plus Paolo Simoncelli (father of Marco) and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta were among those that attended the meeting, ahead of this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix.

“Sport, respecting the rules, is an important way to learn - especially for young generations," said Pope Francis. "Or rather, it’s irreplaceable. Sport promotes a healthy way to overcome the self and selfishness, train the spirit and promote loyalty in personal relationships, friendship, respect for the rules.

“Sport is expressed in universal language that transcends confinement, language, race, religion and ideology. That’s seen most often in amateur sport, when it comes from the heart.

"Therefore, it has the intrinsic capacity to unite people, fostering dialogue and welcoming. I encourage you to spread the values of sport: in that way you will contribute to creating a fairer and more supportive society.”

The Pope also urged the riders to use their passion to be champions in life, as well as on the race track.

“Let passion take you over. This world needs passion and passions. Live with passion and not as someone who carries life as though it’s a burden. Passion is walking forward… [a] 'Champion in life'.

"Yes, you can become a champion in sporting successes, in a team, whatever it is, but a champion in life is someone who lives with passion, to the full, and is capable of living that way.”

“It was a great experience in a different kind of suit!" said world champion Marc Marquez. "It was so nice, we spoke and we were able to meet him but also talk to him. It was a pleasure to be here.

"What he said was great, in terms of understanding and motivation – he said you need passion in life and a goal, and if you follow that passion you can achieve a lot.”

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa said: “It was very special and a unique opportunity to meet the Pope and be able to share a few words – for me and for the other riders. We do an extreme sport and there’s a lot of risk so it’s always important to feel good. This event is something special and I’m glad to be here.”

“It’s a really incredible day for us, it’s the first time for me coming here to see the Pope and it’s an incredible pleasure," said Italian Andrea Iannone. "I’m a lucky man to have this experience…I hope from today maybe I’ll have more luck! But joking aside, I appreciate it a lot. Thank you to MotoGP for this opportunity. I’ll remember today for the rest of my life and it’s a really great experience.”

Jack Miller joked that, having also met the Thai Prime Minister earlier this year, he's starting to feel a bit like an Australian diplomat!

The riders will be back in their usual suits for Friday practice at Misano.




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