Vatican priests to strip for Clericus Cup

The Vatican will field a team in the inaugural 2007 Clericus Cup soccer competition for priests and seminarians launched by an Italian Christian sporting organisation in a bid to promote a sporting culture in the Church.

The International Herald Tribune reports that the competition will kick off in February 2007 with the Vatican one of 16 teams taking part.

The final will take place in Rome in June, organisers said on 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 Centre, which is organising the event, said in a statement on its website.

The Centre is a Christian organisation that promotes education through sport.

"The purpose is really to reinvigorate the tradition (of sport) inside the Christian community," the Centre's 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 prioritise 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.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Bertone says that a Vatican team could eventually rival Italian first division teams, according to an Ansa report.

"I do not preclude the possibility that the Vatican, in the future, could put together a football team of great value, that could play on the same level as Roma, Inter Milan and Sampdoria," he told Ansa, the Age reports.

The late Pope John Paul II was a keen sportsman and played soccer in his youth, mostly as a goalkeeper.

Priests to get soccer tournament in Rome (International Herald Tribune, 15/12/06)
No clerical error: Vatican in soccer tournament (Sporting News, 15/12/06)
Clericus Cup: Preti et seminaristi in campo (15/12/06)
About to kick off ... Vatican FC? (The Age, 18/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Centro Sportivo Italiano

18 Dec 2006