This World Cup the Pope has made it clear he will remain neutral. But he often expresses his passion for soccer to describe Christian life.
"Jesus asks us to follow him all of our lives, he asks us to be his disciples, for us to 'play on his team.'”
Pope Francis said that in order to be on Christ's team, people need to train. He explained what the training consists of.
"What does a player do when he's call to be a part of a team? He has to train, and train a lot. That's also how our lives as disciples of the Lord are. These is the training needed to follow Jesus: prayer, the Sacraments, and helping others, service towards others.”
As any avid soccer fan can attest, teams have their ups and downs. The Pope used this as a reminder that the important thing is not to win, but to get up and try again after losing.
"If you make a mistake in life, if you slip and fall, if you do something that's wrong, don't be afraid. 'Jesus, look at what I've done. What do I have to do now?' But always talk to Jesus, in good times and the bad.”
For any fan, the best view of the game has no price. But the Pope went on to say that there are no "free” access for Christians.
"He asks us to pray the entrance fee. And that fee requires us to train ourselves, to 'stay in shape,' in order to face without fear life's challenges, giving witness to our faith.”
It's never easy to accept defeat, especially when the match isn't fair. But the key, according to Pope Francis, is to always play clean.
"During a match, when you're on the field, you find beauty, gratitude and teamwork. If a team is missing that, it loses strength, even if it wins.”
The goal for any championship is to win. A trophy is the ultimate symbol of victory, but the Pope recalled that Christians receive something even more important.
"Jesus offers us something greater than the World Cup; something even greater than the World Cup! Jesus offers us the opportunity for a fruitful and happy life, and a never-ending future by His side, in eternal life. That's what Jesus has to offer.”
Any pilgrim that has followed his work, knows the Pope often talks about soccer. But even before him, St. Paul wrote in his letters that it's necessary to run like athletes in order to pursue the laurel crown that never withers.