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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
13 August 2012
Greg Kandra

After winning Olympic Gold in London, Ethiopian long distance runner Meseret Defar kisses an image of the Virgin Mary she’d carried with her. (photo: by Matt Dunham/AP via Vatican Radio)

The moment above captured the attention of the world late Friday during the London Olympics. As Vatican Radio put it:

When Ethiopian long distance runner Meseret Defar crossed the finish line for Olympic Gold, the very first thing she did was reach for an image of the Virgin and Child — which she had carried with her for every step of her 5,000 metre race — and pray, full of thanks and filled with joy.

Defar, an Ethiopian Orthodox, kissed the image and made the sign of the cross. It was one of many public signs of faith on display during the Olympics:

From simple crucifixes to prostrations in prayer, athletes from various religious backgrounds have brought their private, personal relationship with God into the global arena, in moving moments of thanks and praise.

“It is a sign perhaps for many of us in society, that little public signs of faith are no harm”, says Bishop Richard Moth, Bishop of the British Armed Forces. “It’s a sign that faith is not just a personal thing, but in a very simple way they are opportunities for us to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim faith and all those things can only be good!”

Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church