Benedict XVI did not watch the World Cup Final between Argentina and Germany on television last night but knew instantly what the final score was when he saw the expression on the face of his secretary, Archbishop George Gaenswein, the following morning.
The prefect of the Pontifical Household said he watched the match with the Memores Domini – consecrated women who assist Benedict XVI – and all of them rooted for Germany, although he said he felt sorry for the Argentines. “They played well but I think in the end Germany won deservedly,” he told Vatican Radio.
Germany beat Argentina by one goal at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, scored in the final minutes of extra time.
The German archbishop said he had invited Benedict XVI to watch the game which began at 9pm Rome time, but the Pope emeritus declined. “He thanked me but preferred to go to sleep,” he said.
“Of course, this morning I was going to tell him – but he had already seen my face which expressed a clear message. Then I told him how it went and the result of the match.”
Archbishop Gaenswein said he hadn’t seen Pope Francis but did pass on his “heartfelt condolences” to the Pontiff’s secretary, Don Fabián Pedacchio Leaniz.
Asked about the many light-hearted and affectionate comments on social media regarding the two popes and the final, he said he had seen them and was “very glad, because you see how football has the power to unite.”
“And then we have seen many things that expressed in a joking way, sometimes in an ironic way, but in the end always in a nice, sincere way,” he said. “I think that this occasion has made it clear there is a nice harmony between the two popes.”
He underlined Pope Francis’ emphasis on the importance of encounter that sport provides, especially if the match is positive. Asked about the “Pause for Peace” which the Vatican organised around the event, Archbishop Gaenswein said he was following “with great concern” the conflict in the Holy Land. But he said even if the situation has become “very worrying”, prayer is “very important” and the recent Invocation for Peace at the Vatican is “a sign and this sign must bear good fruit.”
He said sport, particularly soccer, is able to bring opposing sides together in a way politics cannot. The World Cup, he said, is an opportunity to “strengthen and appreciate” this reality.