English parishes get game on for London Olympics

British organizers of the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics have more than the crown, court and commons rolling up their sleeves to welcome some 10,500 athletes and twice as many journalists to the two events. They also have every Catholic parish in greater London already hard at work.

Sam Adams reports in this week’s international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, that the Catholic 2012 Committee plans on deploying a team of more than 20 chaplains for around-the-clock pastoral care throughout the games, two hospitality centers and 24-hour exposition of the Eucharist.

The church also is offering a “Joshua Camp,” where 1,200 youths will be trained to offer hospitality as volunteers for the games.

The church wants to bring special attention to some tough social issues before and during the games. It hopes to shine some light on a dark side of such large gatherings — the inevitable increase in human trafficking, especially sex workers. Adams notes that during the 2000 Athens games, sex trafficking almost doubled. The church will be offering shelter for the men, women and children who are victims.

Parishes across London are opening their parish halls and starting sports clubs for at-risk youths who might otherwise be temped to get involved in gang violence during the games. Individual Catholics and families are being encouraged to open their homes to the friends and relatives of the athletes.

This is all part of Britain’s More Than Gold project, an effort to involve Christian churches in the 2012 Olympics.

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