Pope hails Vatican sprinters as 'spiritual athletes'

Catholic faithful sprinted along the main avenue leading to the Vatican on Sunday in an unusual initiative hailed by Pope Francis as showing that believers were "spiritual athletes".

The Vatican organized the event named "100 Metres of Running and Faith", saying it wanted to highlight the "educational, cultural and spiritual values of the sporting practice".

"Thank you! Because you remind us that believers are spiritual athletes," Francis said in his weekly Angelus blessing from a Vatican balcony overlooking St Peter's Square.

Some 5,000 participants took part in the three-hour event along Via della Conciliazione.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture said the sprint was to be conducted "in a climate of prayer" and participants should "run to bring their message of faith and hope in the world."