A cyclist in the Vatican spreads the Pope’s message to the world

Vatican City (AP) – Plain white helmet like the Pope’s bonnet.

The Holy See’s cross keys are stamped on his white shirt and yellow on his heart.

Dutch-born cyclist Rien Schuurhuis carries a tremendous sense of duty as he races for the Vatican in a road race on Sunday at the Cycling World Championships in Wollongong, Australia – marking the first time the city-state’s growing use of sport as a tool for dialogue, peace and solidarity.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Schorois told The Associated Press by phone from Australia on Friday. “I think the real emotion has yet to come when I’m standing there at the starting line.

“This is a wonderful first step in the direction of what the Pope believes to achieve through sport (with) inclusivity and fraternity,” Schorois added. “Everyone in the sports field – or on the roads in this case – is equal, regardless of their background, religion or age.”

Vatican athletes recently participated as unregistered competitors in the Small Nations Games in Europe – open to countries with a population of less than a million people – and the Mediterranean Games.

The cycling worlds marks the first time an athlete from the Vatican has competed as a regular competitor, after the International Cycling Federation recognized the Holy See as its 200th member last year.