An inter-religious "match for peace" soccer game in the Olympic Stadium in Rome yesterday featured players from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds playing to benefit at-risk children. Although he did not attend the event, Pope Francis heartily approved of the effort, and made calls to some potential players to encourage them to take part.
The Pope held audiences with members of both teams, and remarked that "Tonight's match will certainly be an occasion to collect funds and support, but above all to reflect on the universal values which football and sport in general can promote: loyalty, sharing, welcoming, dialogue, trust in the other. It's about values which joins every person regardless of race, culture and religious belief."
The game was the result of a conversation between the Argentinian soccer star Javier Zanetti and the Pope, himself from Argentina. The two teams featured both past and present players, including legendary forward Diego Armando Maradona, who led the Argentinian team to the World Cup in 1986.
The teams, named for Scholas Occurrentes, an educational group started by the Pope, and Pupi, for a foundation created by Zanetti, battled back and forth, but it was Pupi that came out ahead 6-3. The game was bracketed by the planting of an olive tree before the kickoff by religious figures of different traditions, and by the reading of a speech about peace after the game by several of the players.
Read more at Haaretz.