Vatican 2014-10-04 -- It was day to remember for thousands of disabled athletes of the Italian Paralympic Committee who gathered with their families in the Paul VI hall on Saturday to meet Pope Francis.

The encounter was part of the “Believe To Be Alive” event taking place this weekend, dedicated to Paralympic sport.

Thanking the athletes for their presence which he described as “large and festive”, the Holy Father noted the many nationalities present, adding that sport was a way to “promote contacts and relationships with people from different cultures and environments.”

The Pope also underlined that sport offered an opportunity for men and women to foster “a culture of inclusion and reject a culture of waste.”

Pope Francis said the testimony of the athletes “was a great sign of hope.” It’s proof, he continued “of the fact that in every person there is potential that sometimes we cannot imagine, and that can develop with confidence and solidarity.”

The Holy Father reminded those present that in their efforts to promote a world of sport without barriers, they were not alone. God our Father, he said, is with you.

As part of the “Believe To Be Alive” event, the road leading to Saint Peter’s square will, for the first time literally become an outdoor training centre on Sunday, where disabled athletes will show what they have learned to do thanks to sports