The Vatican’s increasingly high-profile cricket club has set the date for an extremely symbolic first match against an all-Muslim team from Britain, organisers said on Thursday.
In a series of matches this month, the St Peter’s cricket club, made up of mostly South Asian Rome-based seminarians and priests, will also take on a team from Pope Francis’s home town of Buenos Aires and get a chance of revenge against a Church of England XI.
But it is the meeting with Mount Cricket Club from Batley, Yorkshire, on October 17 that is likely to attract the most attention, with the Church hoping it will make a small contribution to global inter-faith understanding.
“It is going to be Muslims and Catholics playing together, a bridge being made in sport between believers,” said Father Robert McCulloch, an Australian priest who was based in Pakistan for 34 years and helped organise the inter-faith clash with help from the governor of Sind province in Pakistan, Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan.
Most of Mount’s players are of Pakistani heritage.
“This is a point that is going to be picked up in countries where cricket is played,” McCulloch added. “Pope Francis says walls are never solutions, bridges always are. What we are doing here is making a good bridge, a small counterbalance to a culture of violence throughout the world.”
Established in 2013, the St Peter’s club toured England last year where their matches included meetings with The Royal Household club based at Windsor Castle, an authors XI, and a team of British army chaplains. A tight match with the Anglican church’s finest ended in the narrowest of victories for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI.
Media attention surrounding the tour led to officials at the Mount CC getting in touch with the St Peter’s team to propose a match.
During their visit to Rome they are to be invited to join members of the St Egidio religious community for prayers in one of the city’s best known churches, the 12th Century Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.