1. ITV Report

Nuns and priests on track for sporting glory as Vatican sets up first athletics team

Nuns and priests from the Vatican could soon be competing alongside world class athletes at international sporting events after the tiny nation launched its first athletics team.

The Vatican City, home to fewer than 1,000 people including the head of the Roman Catholic church, has signed an agreement with Italy's National Olympic Committee which will allow it to compete in international sporting events whilst take advantage of the country's training and medical facilities.

The team now hopes to join the International Association of Athletics Federations.

The Vatican's newly launched athletics team in St Peter's Square in The Vatican City. Credit: AP

Formed of ordained members of the church, pharmacists, guards and academics who live and work in the Holy See, the team counts around 60 athletes. The state has long promoted sport as a form of communication to break down barriers towards peace and solidarity.

It has expressed ambition to compete in the Games of Small States of Europe where athletes from The Vatican would find themselves rubbing shoulders with sportspeople from other European nation's with populations lower than one million including the likes of Andorra, Cyprus, Malta and Iceland.

In recent years, the Vatican has fielded unofficial football teams and a cricket team that has helped forge relations with the Anglican church through annual tours of the British Isles.

The team could compete alongside other small European nations at international sporting events. Credit: AP

"The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games," said Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, team president and the head of the Vatican's sports department.

But it may be a while before athletes from the nation appear on the podium at the Olympic games as the state has cited appearing at the games as neither a short nor medium-term goal, instead focusing on competitions that have cultural or symbolic value.