ROME: The Vatican is getting ready to battle it out with priests in Rome. On a soccer pitch.
The inaugural Clericus Cup will kick off in February 2007 with the Vatican one of 16 teams taking part.
The final will take place in the Italian capital at the end of June, organizers said Friday.
"The Clericus Cup (is) an occasion for all those enthusiasts, and some former players — who are in seminaries today, attending university, studying to be a priest — to put themselves back in the game, dribbling, making saves and headers," the Italian Sports Center (CSI), which is organizing the event, said in a statement on its Web site. CSI is a Christian organization that promotes education through sport.
"The purpose is really to reinvigorate the tradition (of sport) inside the Christian community," CSI president Edio Costantini told Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, crediting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state and an ardent Juventus fan, with the idea.
"Sport is a magnificent tool for bringing the young together ... Aside from physical training, a soccer match can serve as a (means to) personal, social and spiritual growth," Costantini said.
Costantini hopes that many priests who have hung up their boots "to prioritize other aspects of the Christian mission" will start to play soccer again. "A priest that can get together with kids to play soccer is the best advertisement for sporting culture inside the Church," Costantini added.
The teams are likely to be made up of trainee priests, who are studying at the various pontifical universities in Rome. Games are limited to one hour — rather than the normal 90 minutes — which may tempt some of the older generation to play. The coaching staff will also be exclusively clerical, Gazzetta reported. It did not say who the referees will be.
The first edition of the Clericus Cup will be limited to teams from Rome, but the format could be extended to other regions throughout Italy, according to Gazzetta.
The late Pope John Paul II was a keen sportsman and played soccer in his youth, mostly as a goalkeeper.
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