The origin of the Roman Catholic sports unions goes back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century with France, Belgium and Italy being the pioneers. The idea to found an international organisation was born in 1906 on the occasion of a gymnastics competition held between the FGSPF (founded in France in 1898) and the FASCA (founded in Italy in May 1906). It was decided to organise a first sporting event of all Catholic sports unions. In 1908 a first sporting event of all Catholic sports unions was organised in Rome under the patronage of Pope Pius X in the Belvedere Court of the Vatican. More than 2000 athletes from France, Belgium, Ireland, Canada and Italy participated at this first Grand Concours Catholique de Gymnastique et de Sport. 

The athletes were welcome in a special audience of Pope Pius X who personally attended all different sporting events. The Holy Father wished that this Confederation should spread in the same way as the Church, so that we are all united in a single mind and a single heart, to the benefit of the same action’.


Interrupted by the Great War of 1914-1918, the activities of the union were soon resumed from 1919 onwards. Further countries – Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia – joined the union. Alsace became French once again in 1918 and rejoined the FGSPF. The sports disciplines developed very fast and important international events were held throughout Europe. From 1922 to 1939 there were gatherings at Maribor (1920), Brno (1922), Paris (1923), Prague (1929), Antwerp (1930), Vienna (1936) and Ljubljana (1938) and these cities successively welcomed thousands of young people who came to compete in the sporting events in a climate of sporting friendship and Christian commitment.

World War II caused profound changes in the world. When the peace arrived in 1945 the union had to start again but within a difficult situation. The separation of Europe into two camps caused the Catholic sports federations in the eastern bloc to be disbanded, and it was not until the fall of Berlin Wall, in 1989, and its political consequences, that some of the old federations could be welcomed back. This was the case of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1947 the union was named “Fédération Internationale Catholique d’Education Physique” (F.I.C.E.P) and a few years later it was renamed into “Fédération Internationale Catholique d’Education Physique et sportive” though the initials F.I.C.E.P were retained. At the same time it was decided to open FICEP activities for women. A Women’s Commission was founded in the same year of 1947 whose first president was Thèrese EYQUEM (France). Since 2011 the FICEP has 13 member countries. Last Madagascar (FIHEZAMA) as well as Cameroon (Centre Sportif Camerounaise/CSC) and Romania in 2011 (Clubul Sportiv Roman/CSR) joined the FICEP.


By the initiative of Dr. Paul MICHAUX, president of the FGSPF (France) an International Gymnastics Competition – the Union Internationale des Oeuvres Catholique d’Education Physique (U.I.O.C.E.P.) – was founded in 1911. The new organisation was officially founded on December 13th 1913 in Rome. Its goals were to bring young Roman Catholic sportsmen together and to contribute, across frontiers, to the good relations between peoples and allow each of them to advertise the advantages and characteristics of their own country.

Under the chairmanship of Count Mario de CARPEGNA the Union included Alsace (a French region that had become part of Germany in 1871) Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The first important UIOCEP sporting event took place in Rome in 1913.