The Vatican served tea and cucumber sandwiches as it launched its first cricket club, an initiative aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.
Pope Francis and the Vatican have long championed sports as good for the mind, body and soul, and the cricket club is the latest initiative of the culture ministry to use sports to engage with the contemporary world.
Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, had the idea for the initiative and said he hoped the St Peter’s Cricket Club would field a team to play the Church of England at Lord’s next autumn.
He said the aim was 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 is also intended to show Italy, the Vatican and even Pope Francis that “there is some sport other than football”, Mr McCarthy said before passing around a tray of cucumber sandwiches, a mainstay of cricket events.