Pope Francis and the ‘Hand of God’

Europe’s tabloid press has added its bit to the wall-to-wall press coverage of Pope Francis. Crowding out the semi-nude girls, horse racing results, horoscopes and celebrity tattle the details of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires to the chair of St. Peter have received page 1 treatment across the continent.

Two newspapers have been especially clever. The Mirror in London and Germany’s Bild used the same photo of Francis on the balcony at St. Peter’s and the same caption “The new hand of God” (Die neue Hand Gottes).

For an American audience this title is fairly benign. But for soccer crazy Europeans and Argentinians the phrase is a clever play on one of the most famous incidents in World Cup play.

Before a crowd of 120,000 in Mexico City on 22 June 1986 (and only four years after the Falklands War) Argentina played England in the quarter finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Beating England 2-1, Argentine captain Diego Maradona scored two of the most famous goals in soccer history.  Fifty-one minutes into the match Maradona used his hand to knock the ball into the goal out of the sight of the referee.

His second, after fifty-four minutes, saw him dribble past five England players to score. In 2002 this was voted Goal of the Century by FIFA.com voters. The first became known as the “hand of God goal” after Maradona told reporters the ball had been helped with:

“A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

To help the dimmer members amongst its readers (and foreigners like me) The Mirror inserted a photo next to the new pope’s hand showing the “Hand of God goal.”

It is possible to read a little too much into this.

While The Mirror and Bild are generally  unsympathetic to the Catholic Church, I believe this is just an example of a copy editor’s cleverness. Nothing more. This is the view of the LA Times also.

What say you GetReligion readers, is this fun or is there something more?

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  • Thinkling

    I have no idea it is not something more, but this big soccer fan from USA got it right away and absolutely LOVED it.

    Linguistic note: I cannot say “from America” as Pope Francis is often described as from America. Strictly speaking us USAers have wrongly usurped America as our own, dissing an entire hemisphere in the process.

    • mary martha

      We are from the only country int he world that has the word ‘America’ in it. People from the United States of Mexico are Mexican and people from the United States of America are American.

      I think it is totally accurate to say this is the first Pope from ‘The Americas’

      • The True Will

        Is nobody proclaiming that he is the first Pope from the SOUTHERN Hemisphere?

  • Martha

    It is a clever joke, as probably the most famous Argentinian is indeed Diego Maradona, so a visual pun on the “hand of God” does work.

    However, there may also be a small element (in the British press) about the Falklands War; on 10th-11th of March, the islanders voted in a referendum as to whether or not they would keep British sovereignty. There were only three votes against, so the vast majority want to remain as an Overseas Territory.

    Unfortunately, the Argentinian government doesn’t see it that way. President Cristina Kirchner (you remember her, the brave and bold progressive politician who stood up to the Church and the archbishop on divorce, abortion, gay marriage, adoption by gay couples, contraception and artificial insemination?) dismissed the result and it looks like they’re pushing ahead with plans to claim the islands in the next couple of years.

    Faced with the choice between the only popularly-known images of Argentine-British relations being the Falklands/Malvinas War, and the Hand of God incident, it’s probably a more benign or at least friendly choice to use the Diego Maradona reference (certainly a lot friendlier than using the Gotcha image from the “Sun”).

    I certainly wouldn’t take it as indicating unfriendliness to the Catholic Church on the part of the “Mirror”, whatever about “Bild”.

  • http://jettboy.blogspot.com Jettboy

    If you have to explain a pun, much like a joke, is it really a pun?

    • Anne

      I think they only had to explain it to us USAians (USAers?) who don’t tend to follow soccer – the original German version seems to be able to trust that its readers will immediately understand.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Actually the new pope is a member of an association that owns a soccer club in Argentina. It’s name is the angels and their main rival is—-The Devils.

  • The True Will

    And “The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country.”

  • Mollie

    Totally didn’t get it (and I’m ashamed about this) but love the headline.

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  • http://nathaniel-campbell.blogspot.com Nathaniel Campbell

    I would point out that Das Bild’s headline continues, as it were, the soccer theme they used eight years ago when Benedict was elected. Their headline then–”Wir sind Papst!” (“We are Pope!”)–was a take-off on the phrase, “Wir sind Weltmeister!” (“We are World Champions!”), which the Germans would so dearly liked to have been able to claim in each of the last three World Cups (finishing second in 2002 and third in 2006 [when they hosted] and again in 2010).
    Of course, “Wir sind Papst!” carried additional complexities for the native land of Martin Luther.


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