Pope meets Celtic FC players and manager

Celtic FC manager Brendan Rogers presenting the Pope with a signed shirt.(Photo: EWTN)

The Pope has met Celtic Football Club players and manager Brendan Rogers at the Vatican.

The entire Scottish Premier League squad were there for the audience with Pope Francis, which went ahead despite his ill-health with the flu that has forced the cancellation of his appearance at COP28. 

Rogers presented Francis with his very own green and white shirt signed by the team and emblazoned with “Francis”. 

The team were already in Rome for a crucial match against Lazio. They suffered a 2-0 defeat, ending their UEFA Championship dreams.

The Pope shared words of encouragement with the Hoops after their defeat and recalled the club’s origins as a social enterprise in Glasgow.

He expressed regreat about the focus on money in professional football and encouraged the team to remember its roots. 

“While it is true that winning rather than losing a match is always preferred, it is not the most important aspect,” he said. 

“More vital is the example you give when winning or losing, both on and off the field. An example that embodies the virtues of courage, perseverance, generosity and respect for the God-given dignity of others.

“Indeed, Celtic Football Club was founded in 1887 with the specific goal of alleviating poverty in the City of Glasgow. 

“This was truly a charitable undertaking for the sake of the most needy of our brothers and sisters. Yet, how much the world of football has changed since then. In particular, the financial footprint of the ‘Beautiful Game’ has greatly increased, and at times can risk making football only attractive for reasons of monetary profit.”

The Pope also encouraged the players themselves to be people of integrity and set a good example to others.

“The valued legacy of your club, then, places a heavy responsibility upon your shoulders, reminding you to be good role-models, especially for young people,” he said.

“The standards you are called to set concern not only your abilities as sportsmen and the classic qualities required to excel, but are also about your personal integrity. In this regard, men and women should see in you not just fine footballers but also people of kindness, big-hearted men who know how to be wise stewards of the many benefits you receive from your privileged positions within society.

“With these brief remarks, I pray that you will continue to remember and bear witness to everything that makes sport genuinely good and noble.”

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