The Vatican has started a cricket club in an attempt to forge better
relations with other faiths.
About 300 catholic priests and students at colleges attached to the Holy See, most of whom come from the Indian sub-continent, antipodes and the West Indies, have signed up to play.
At a launch event on Monday, the Vatican’s culture ministry marked the occasion by serving the traditional accompaniment of tea and cucumber sandwiches.
The plan is to start an inter-college league, from which the best players will be selected in order to play for a Vatican national side.
Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, said he hoped the St Peter’s Cricket Club will field a team to play the Church of England next autumn.
Alfonso Jayarajah, a Sri Lankan who was the first captain of the Italian national team and is now a board member of the St Peter’s Cricket Club, said: “The Vatican
team will be able to play anybody in the world.
“We hope to see a Vatican team playing at Lord’s.”
Ad hoc matches have previously taken place against such obscure teams as the Dutch Fellowship of Fairly Odd Places Cricket Club (FFOP CC).
Matches were played on a converted pitch in the Stadio dei Marmi in Rome, which is surrounded by 59 9ft tall marble statues.
Future matches will use a dedicated astroturf cricket pitch close to Ciampino airport, already used by the Italian Cricket Team, which is 23rd in the world.
As well as the main pitch, which has nets, every religious college has a green space where teams in the league can practice.
Mr McCarthy said he came up with the idea of the league as something that would rival the Clericus Cup, a football tournament involving the various religious colleges
He dismissed the idea that umpires might have to give their decisions in Latin.
“English is the language of cricket and will remain the language of cricket,” said Mr McCarthy.
Football-mad Pope Francis is yet to give his public blessing to the team but those involved think it is just a matter of time.
St Peters’ Cricket Club chairman, Indian But Mascarenhas said: “I am sure that cricket will be another thing that he accepts as part of his openness.”
While Britain has 5.6 million Catholics, other Commonwealth and cricket playing countries have considerably more. India has 20 million Catholics, Australia has 5.4
million and South Africa has 2.7 million.
Vatican culture ministry spokesman Richard Rouse told Sky News Online: “The Holy See has representations from more than 180 countries around the world. People come to
us from all corners of the globe.
“When they return to their homelands, we hope some will be able to use cricket to foster good relations with their community and with other religions.”
He said it was early days, but he was hopeful that teams which include nuns and other women would also take part.
-With orange.co.uk input