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Game of 2 popes: Vatican plays down World Cup rivalry

Game of 2 popes: Vatican plays down World Cup rivalry

THE POPE:Pope Francis waves during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on July 6. Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry between Argentine Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict, a German.

In response to the intense media speculation about whether they would watch the game together, which it called “amusing,” the Vatican called on soccer fans to observe a “pause for peace” before Sunday’s final to remember victims of war and poverty.

A senior Vatican official who works with both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict told Reuters that no decision had been taken yet on how each of the two would spend Sunday night.

Benedict, the source pointed out, is not a soccer fan, but added: “Let’s see. The current situation is unique”.

The Vatican’s spokesman said he did not believe Benedict, now 87 and living his retirement in seclusion in an ex-convent in the Vatican, would watch the match, because of the late hour

Francis, the Latin American pope, is most definitely a soccer fan.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was a keen supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer club. He is an honorary member of the club nicknamed the Saints of Boedo for the neighborhood where they were founded by a group of young men that included a priest in 1908.

The Vatican’s Council for Culture which has sports as part of its brief, called the pre-match speculation “amusing and entertaining” but said it was calling for a moment of silence on Sunday for “thinking about important things” such as peace.

“Let’s have a pause for peace,” said Monsignor Melcher Sanchez de Tosca y Alameda, the council’s undersecretary, announcing a social media hashtag #PAUSEforPeace.

Sanchez referred to the tradition in ancient Greece to stop all conflicts during the Olympic games.

“Why not for the World Cup? Why not a pause, a moment of silence, a truce for peace?” he said.

A spokesman for the council said it would be up to each fan, each team and each organization, including soccer governing body FIFA, if, how and when they wanted to observe a moment of “silence or reflection or pause” to remember those suffering.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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