Pope Francis, a keen football fan and a member of San Lorenzo in his native Argentina, was asked the rather unusual question in a Spanish television interview this weekend with La Sexta. His response was considered and witty, in-keeping with the progressive mindset that has seen the 82-year-old pontiff gain popularity around the world.
Messi is arguably the only Argentine better-known than Papa Francisco, and journalist Jordi Evole asked his most holy interviewee whether it was sacrilege to refer to the FC Barcelona forward as 'God' - considering he knew both of those concerned.
"In theory, it is sacrilege," the Pope responded. "You can’t say it.
"But I don’t believe it," he added, before asking Evole's thoughts, with the journalist replying simply: "I do."
"I don’t," laughed the Pope.
"People can say he is God, just as they may say “I adore you”, but only God can be worshipped. Those are just things people say.
“He is a God with the ball on the field” is a popular way for someone to express themselves.
"Of course, he is very good, but he isn’t God."
The Pope made headlines this week when he appeared reluctant for a number of worshippers to kiss his ring.
He later explained that it was a hygiene measure.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies