Pope Praises Rugby, Meets President of FIFA

Pope Francis’ private audiences had a sporting theme today as he met a group of rugby players and the head of FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football.

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Greeting managers and athletes of the national rugby teams of Argentina and Italy in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father described rugby as a very likeable sport, since “it is a tough sport, with a lot of physical contact, but it is not violent.”

“There is great loyalty, great respect,” he said. “Playing rugby is hard, it is not a walk in the park! And this, I think, is useful also for tempering character and willpower”.

“In rugby”, he continued, “one runs towards a goal. This word, which is so beautiful and so important, makes us think about life, because all our lives lead towards a goal.”

“This search is tiring, and requires commitment and struggle, but the important thing is not to run alone,” he said. “To arrive at the goal we need to run together, the ball is passed from hand to hand, and we advance together, until we reach the goal. And then we celebrate!”

“Perhaps this interpretation of mine is not very technical, but it is how a bishop sees rugby!,” the Holy Father said in closing. “And as a bishop I hope that you will be able to put all of this in practice, also off-pitch, in your lives”.

Earlier, the Pope received in private audience Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, president of FIFA.

Blatter told reporters afterwards that he promised FIFA would do what it could to respond to the Pope’s request for the footbal federation to help the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 World Cup.

“We spoke the same language and it was language of football,” Blatter said. “It was really a meeting between two sportsmen and two football fans.”

Pope Francis has long been a loyal supporter of the San Lorenzo club in Buenos Aires. 

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