The Global Association of Mixed Martials Arts (GAMMA) is pleased to announce that representatives of GAMMA Italy recently had the honour of meeting Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican.

Father Rosario Lo Bello of the Saint Paul the Apostle Parish in Syracuse (Sicily) was invited to meet the Pope on 11 June alongside Gianmaria Leonardi, who represented GAMMA Italy, with whom Leonardi has been collaborating for 15 years to provide aid to disadvantaged children. 

Pope Francis heard from Father Rosario and his students about the many community-building activities they have been carrying out, including the setting up of a makeshift call center for anyone feeling alone during the COVID-19 pandemic when public gatherings were forbidden. 

Leonardi has organised several free combat sports events and offered free training sessions to underprivileged athletes in the area.

During the audience with Pope Francis, it was explained how combat sports have had a significant positive impact on the young people of Syracuse, acting as a gateway for many teenagers to enter the gym as well as find religion. 

Leonardi’s son, Matteo, presented the Holy Father with a pair of fighting gloves as a symbol of the activity carried out over the years in the community. The Pope was delighted to receive the gift and thanked Matteo with words of affection.

 “At GAMMA, mixed martial arts are not just about sport. For us it is a way of life, built on the foundations of our values, which include respect for others, empowerment, and service above self,” said GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt. “As a socially conscious organisation, we at GAMMA applaud the efforts of Leonardi in helping those in need in Syracuse and look forward to similar initiatives being implemented elsewhere by our GAMMA community around the world.” 

GAMMA is best known for its international MMA events, but its daily work reaches far beyond the ring into communities worldwide in an effort to create a better future for all.