Vatican launches its first official cricket club

Officials say the move is part of efforts to foster dialogue between faiths

The Vatican has launched its own official cricket club as part of efforts to encourage interfaith dialogue.

The St Peter's Cricket Club is the brainchild of Australia's ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy.

He described it as an example of "sporting diplomacy" which would present the opportunity to play the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

The next stage is to select an official cricket team.

Lord's prayer

Mr McCarthy estimates that there are between 250 and 350 potential players from around the world studying in seminaries and religious universities in Rome - many of them from cricket loving countries.

The board will stage a limited-overs tournament which will give students and priests a chance to compete for a place on the team, to be known as the Vatican XI.

The team will sport the official colours of the tiny city-state - yellow and white. Their jackets will have the seal of the papacy - two crossed keys.

Vatican members discussing, with a cricket bat on the table Father Theodore Mascarenhas, John McCarthy, Monsignor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda and Father Eamon O'Higgins at the launch

Speaking at the launch, Monsignor Melchor Sanchez, who is the honorary president of St Peter's Cricket Club said "this represents the council's desire to go to the peripheries of the world that Pope Francis has spoken of."

And the chairman of the club, Father Theodore Mascarenhas, an Indian priest known for his off-spin bowling, was confident about the Church's skills.

"The team will be strong enough to beat anyone in the world," Father Mascarenhas said.

Pope Francis is known to like football. He is a fan of the San Lorenzo football club in his native Argentina.

But Father Mascarenhas said the Pope - who he described as an open man - would embrace a new sport.

"I think cricket is another thing that would be part of that openness."

The St Peter's Cricket Club has already laid down its first challenge to the Church of England and asked for a match at Lord's in September next year.

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