Pope Francis is a big soccer fan, or football as it’s known around the world, so it is fitting he gave an audience to his fellow Argentinian team and also the local Italians.
The visit to the Vatican is due to a friendly they are playing against each other on Wednesday in honor of the Holy Father, the first elected Pope from Latin America.
Soccer is, of course, the most popular sport in Europe and South America and no matter if you are the Pope or not, you’re a fan.
The Holy Father looked a bit star struck, for lack of a better term. As has been proven in his first few months as the leader of the Catholic Church, he is a very modest man, not known for having airs of any kind.
In the Clementine Hall the Pontiff talked to the players briefly and told them to remember they are role models.
Pope Francis told the soccer players,
“Dear players, you are very popular. People follow you, and not just on the field but also off it. That’s a social responsibility.”
“It will really be difficult for me to root, but luckily it’s a friendly match.” Francis joked. He was presented with team jerseys from Italy and Argentina signed by the players.
One of the highlights for the Pope came when striker Lionel Messi, international superstar for Barcelona and team captain of the Argentinian team, presented him with a potted olive tree.
The meeting was jovial and Italian coach Claudio Cesare Prandelli said when he tried to invite the Pope to the match he anticipated his question.
Prandelli said Francis told him that Vatican security officials will not let him attend and scold him “for being so undisciplined,” a reference to the pope’s frequent breaches of protocol when he embraces the faithful in crowds or shuns bullet-proof vehicles.
Whoever wins the match, the soccer players seemed to be open to have good sportsmanship following Pope Francis’ speech.
[Images via Observatore Romano]