(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a video message on Monday evening to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where some of football’s best known players – past and present – were facing off in the Interreligious Match for Peace, a charity event he suggested to Inter Milan’s Javier Zanetti earlier this year.
The Holy Father apologized to the mostly Italian crowd for speaking in Spanish, but said it was “the language of my heart, and today I want to speak from my heart,” before thanking everyone for participating in the match.
“I’m glad you have come together for this game, which is very symbolic,” Pope Francis said. “It is a match which highlights the union of the teams, and the union of all those attending as spectators, the desire of all for peace.”
The proceeds from the event are going to "Scholas Occurentes", an Argentine-run project that aims to connect schools and educational networks from different cultures and beliefs from around the world. The event was co-organized by Zanetti's PUPI Foundation.
The two teams were called “Scholas” – coached by Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger – and PUPI, coached by Argentina's Gerardo Martino.
The Holy Father said it is a match in which “no one plays for themselves,” but rather for one another. He said if more people join in, playing as a team, the process gets bigger.
“And playing as a team means the competition, rather than being a war, is the beginning of peace,” he said. “For this reason, the symbol of the match is an olive tree.”
Pope Francis gave a special greeting to the members of “Scholas”, at the end of his remarks, and noted they would be planting an olive tree for peace at the Stadio Olimpico.
“I invite everyone to plant alongside ‘Scholas’,” he said.
Despite this bit of Papal support, the PUPI team managed to win the game, beating “Scholas” by a score of 6-3.