Nuns and refugees run through Rome for 'multi-religious' half-marathon praised by Pope Francis

Pilgrims hold a large Colombian flag as Pope Francis leads the Angelus in St. Peter's Square Sept. 17 at the Vatican.Reuters

Pope Francis has praised the first ever 'multi-religious' half-marathon which saw nuns, refugees and others run through Rome and was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

'I greet participants in the "Via Pacis" athletic race, which passed places of worship of the different religious faiths present in Rome,' the Pope said.

'I hope that this cultural and athletic initiative fosters dialogue, coexistence and peace,' he told gathered for the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, which was near the end of the 13-mile (21 km) course, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Some 2,000 people took part in the race, and almost 4,000 people signed up for the accompanying 5km 'fun run', said Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, the undersecretary of pontifical council and head of the office's section on sport.

Priests, nuns, the disabled, refugees and parents pushing children in strollers were just some of those who took part in the events.

Around 200 members of Rome's grand mosque participated, as well as members of the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Bahai communities, Sanchez told SIR, the Italian bishops' news agency.

About 20 Vatican employees, dubbed 'the pope's marathoners,' also took part, with one member of the Swiss Guard completing the half-marathon with an impressive time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, Sanchez added.

The race started and ended near St. Peter's Square, where Pope Francis delivered his Sunday Angelus prayer and address at noon.