Once elected, Popes must adapt many of their habits to the vital role they play as the leaders of the Catholic Church. But at the same time, they also incorporate some of their personal likings to make their pontificate unique. John Paul II was an avid fan of mountain climbing, while Benedict XVI is known for his affinity to music. Similarly, Pope Francis is passionate about soccer and sports.
In just a matter of months, the Italian and Argentine soccer federations organized a friendly match in the Pope's honor. He frequently speaks to or enthusiastically meets with athletes. It comes naturally to him to interact with them, and he always encourages them to use their privileged spots to be role models and agents of change for the better.
"You are very popular: the people watch you both on and off the field. This is a social responsibility!”
Pope Francis' collection of team jerseys for amateur and professional sports grows with each public appearance. And within the Vatican, many cardinals and Curia members have also spoke about about their affection for sports.
MSGR. MARCELO SANCHEZ SORONO
Chancellor, Pontifical Academy for the Sciences
"The Pope has this affinity because he is used seeing the world as a sport, in the sense that, as he said during his audience with athletes, 'pray for me because I also have a filed and a game to play.' It becomes evident that life is a game and that we have to give it our best to play. I think that the Pope was following the match on television, and naturally he will be happy since Argentina won. They played really well, but also with balance because it wasn't a landslide, they one by one goal. That was good, and the Italian defended themselves well.”
The soccer match at the Olympic Stadium, with all its references to the Vatican and the Pope, is just another example that, with Pope Francis, the doors to the Vatican are even more accessible now to the world's athletes.