Just how much clout does the Holy Father have in World Cup Soccer? I mean, Pope Francis is a soccer fan, to be sure; but can he affect the outcome?
Apparently, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff worries that the pope has a lot of influence on the outcome. According to The Tablet, Columbian Archbishop Óscar Urbina Ortega has said that Ms. Rousseff, during her visit to the Vatican in February, asked Pope Francis for two things:
1. She asked that he record the World Cup message, which was broadcast on Brazilian television last week; and
2. She appealed to him for neutrality and asked him not to pray for Argentina to win, which would give them an unfair advantage.
A laughing Pope Francis told the Barcelona newspaper “La Vanguardia”:
“The Brazilians asked for neutrality. I’ll keep my word because Brazil and Argentina are always opponents.”
Instead of rooting for his Argentinian home team, the pontiff promised that he would “pray for everyone.”
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And how’s that working out so far?
Yesterday, Brazil was only able to tie against Mexico, when they had been expected to win. It was as though the Mexican players were divinely inspired.
Proof positive that Pope Francis is in the tank for Argentina, Brazil’s hated rival? I mean, Brazil is still pretty likely to qualify for the knockout rounds; but you’ve gotta wonder….
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When a group of Latin American bishops visited the Vatican last week on behalf of Populorum Progressio, an encyclical on economic development and social justice, Pope Francis is reported to have made a joke about the Brazilian football team. They had been “terrified for a moment,” the pope said, when Croatia scored in the eleventh minute. (Brazil went on to beat Croatia 3-1.)