Pope Pius XII – Nudity in sport, neither necessary nor appropriate

A Scientific Congress of Sport and Physical Education was held in Rome, 800 participants. 

Receiving them in his palace in Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father spoke as follows:

(…) The Revelation thus teaches us about the body of the man of sublime truths, that the natural sciences and art are unable to discover for themselves, truths that give the body a new value and a higher dignity and therefore a higher motive to earn respect.

Sport and Gymnastics certainly have nothing to fear from these religious and moral principles properly applied; must not excluding some forms that are in opposition with respect told now.

Sound doctrine teaches to respect the body, but not in the estimate more than is fair. The principle is this: body care, effect of increase of the body, yes; body worship, deification of the body, not any more than the deification of race and blood with their somatic presuppositions or their components.

The body does not occupy humans first place; nor the earthly and mortal body, as it exists now, not the glorified body and spiritualized, as it will be one day. This is not the body, taken from the slime of the earth, belongs the primacy in the human compound, but in the spirit, the spirit soul.

No less important is also another fundamental rule contained in a passage of Scripture. Indeed, we read in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans: “I see in my members another law which opposes the law of my mind and makes me a slave to the law of sin which is in my members” ( Roman 7, 23).

One could describe more vividly the daily drama that is woven human life. The instincts and forces of the body are felt, and, stifling the voice of reason, outweigh the energy of goodwill since the day their full subordination to the spirit was lost by original sin.

In the use and intensive exercise the body must reflect this fact. Also there is a gym and a sport which, by their austerity, contribute to curb the instincts, and there are other forms of sport that awaken them, either by violent force, either by the seductions of sensuality .

From the aesthetic point of view also, for the pleasure of beauty, the admiration of rhythm in dance and gymnastics, instinct can insinuate its venom in souls.

He further there in sports and gymnastics, in rhythmic exercises and dance, some nudism is neither necessary nor appropriate. It is not without reason that a few decades an observer completely impartial had to admit: “What in this area interested in the mass, it is not the beauty of nudity, but the nakedness of beauty “. In such a way to practice gymnastics and sports, religious and moral sense vetoes.

In a word, sport and gymnastics should not control and dominate, but to serve and help. It is their function, and that’s where they find their justification. (…)


Pius XII, Address to physical education teachers , November 8, 1952, in documents of Pope Pius XII, 1952, p. 516-517.

Or cf. Source URL : http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/pt/csb.htm#i4.

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