Last updated: October 22. 2013 9:37AM - 1143 Views
Associated Press



Monsignor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, wears a cricket helmet during the presentation of the Vatican cricket club at the Vatican, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The Vatican has officially launched its cricket club, an initiative aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths. Pope Francis marked the occasion by having tea and cucumber sandwiches served for a sport long associated with manicured grounds and English nobility. But the soccer-mad "slum pope" still prefers that lower-brow sport. He and the Vatican have long championed sports as good for the mind, body and soul. The cricket club is the latest initiative of the Vatican's culture ministry to use sports to engage in dialogue with the contemporary world. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Monsignor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, wears a cricket helmet during the presentation of the Vatican cricket club at the Vatican, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The Vatican has officially launched its cricket club, an initiative aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths. Pope Francis marked the occasion by having tea and cucumber sandwiches served for a sport long associated with manicured grounds and English nobility. But the soccer-mad "slum pope" still prefers that lower-brow sport. He and the Vatican have long championed sports as good for the mind, body and soul. The cricket club is the latest initiative of the Vatican's culture ministry to use sports to engage in dialogue with the contemporary world. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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(AP) The Vatican served tea and cucumber sandwiches Tuesday as it launched its first cricket club, an initiative aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.


No, Pope Francis isn't taking up the sport long associated with manicured grounds and English nobility; the soccer-mad "slum pope" still prefers the lower-brow sport of his beloved San Lorenzo club.


But he and the Vatican have long championed sports as good for mind, body and soul, and the cricket club is the latest initiative of the Vatican's culture ministry to use sports to engage in dialogue with the contemporary world.


Australia's ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, was the brainchild behind the initiative and said he hopes the St. Peter's Cricket Club will field a team to play the Church of England at Lord's sometime next fall.


He said the aim is to boost interfaith dialogue, given cricket's immense popularity in largely non-Catholic India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It would be a "very special occasion" if seminarians from Rome's pontifical universities might one day play students at Muslim or Hindu religious schools on the subcontinent, he said.


The initiative also is aimed at educating Italy, the Vatican and even Pope Francis that "there is some sport other than football!" he said before passing around a tray of cucumber tea sandwiches, a mainstay of cricket events.


The club is expected to count on some 250-300 students and priests at the Vatican and various pontifical universities around Rome where cricket is already being played informally; from these individual teams a Vatican one would be selected and fielded as early as the spring.


Rome's Capannelle Cricket Club is letting the Vatican use its pitch, and McCarthy said anonymous private sponsors were prepared to fund equipment, organizational and other related costs.


The Vatican already has its "Clericus Cup" soccer tournament, which pitches the Swiss Guards against seminarians from the North American College and other teams.


And just on Sunday in another sporting initiative, the culture ministry organized a "Race of Faith," laying down a 100-meter (yard) track along the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square to emphasize sports' positive spiritual and educational values.


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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield


Associated Press
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