(Vatican Radio) It’s cricket season again here in the Vatican, as members of the St Peter’s Club prepare for two important ecumenical and interfaith fixtures.
The club was founded back in 2013, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture, to promote the values embodied by one of the world’s most popular sports. Its members are mostly seminarians from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England who are studying for the priesthood here in Rome.
This week St Peter’s XI are playing against an English interfaith team made up of players from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh backgrounds. The East London side welcomed the Vatican XI last year and narrowly lost to the visitors at their Walthamstow cricket ground.
On Saturday, they’re hoping to beat St Peter’s at their match at the Capannelle ground, but they also hope their visit to Rome and the Vatican will have a deeper impact in terms of interreligious relationships. To find out more Philippa Hitchen spoke with two of the visiting team, Lord Patel of Bradford, a Labour member of the House of Lords and Forhad Hussain, a councillor for the East London Borough of Newham
Hussain says he was involved in putting together the team for last year’s match which had a great atmosphere and showcased “the power of cricket” to bring people together.
He notes how Essex County Cricket Club do a lot of grassroots development work, using sports to enable “people of all levels and different backgrounds to get to know each other and learn more about their faiths”.
Bringing people together
He says that some areas of East London represent the most diverse parts of the country “and we’re proud of that”. In East London, he says, a large part of the South Asian community play a lot of cricket and many of them are now involved at county championship level.
Lord Patel, who is a director of the English Cricket Board, says the strategy is to make cricket a sport for everyone, boys and girls of all different faiths and backgrounds.
Message of inclusion
He says the pope’s engagement through the Vatican team “brings something special”. At a time of extreme unpredictability and hostility, he says, it sends an alternative message that “we come together through this sport”.
Patel is a Hindu, married to a Muslim, he says, so “we’re multi-faith in our household”. He hopes this visit to Rome can be “a journey to maybe get a feel of my own faith”. But he says he’s also hoping to plan an event in London next year with St Peter’s XI “that will send a message to the world” about seeing our similarities rather than our differences.
Power of cricket
Hussain says he was brought up as a Muslim and is “trying to find my faith at the moment” so “hopefully coming to the Vatican can help me do that”. Beyond that, he says, this trip is about “ networking” and developing relationships in order to improve the lives of people in East London through the power of cricket.