The Vatican’s cricket team sets off on its first tour outside of Europe on December 27th, travelling to Argentina at the invitation of a Buenos Aires-based sports club called ‘Cricket Sin Fronteras’ or Cricket Without Borders.
During the 8-day ‘Light of Faith’ tour the Vatican side, officially known as St Peter’s Cricket Club, will play against the Argentinian national team, but it will also take the sport inside a Buenos Aires prison and into the slums in some of the poorest parts of the city.
In preparation for the tour, Pope Francis met the players at the end of his General Audience on Wednesday, December 12th, signing a cricket bat which will be presented as a gift to the host club. The Pope also blessed several hundred rosaries to be distributed to children and their families in the slums.
‘Cricket Sin Fronteras’ was founded in 2009 with the approval of Pope Francis as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Its mission is to teach values of respect, inclusion and teamwork, and it currently works with some 1,500 boys and girls, aged from 6 to 20.
In October 2017 the Argentinian Club sent a team to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and to play a debut match against the Vatican XI. The result was a win for St Peter’s, so the Buenos Aires club will be hoping to make it a draw as they play St Peter’s on their home territory on December 27th.
The following day, the Vatican team will challenge the national Argentinian side which has been an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 1974 (the sport was first introduced there by British immigrants in the early 1800s).
On December 29, the Vatican cricket team will meet the Pope’s successor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Mario Poli, and Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires Joaquìn Sucunza, celebrating Mass with them in the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The following day, Sunday, the team will make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, patroness of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. On January 3rd, just before their return to Rome, the team will visit Martìn prison in Buenos Aires and play against a side made up of inmates and staff.
St Peter’s Cricket Club was established in 2013 and is comprised of seminarians who are studying for the priesthood at various colleges in Rome. It operates under the auspices of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture and was set up to promote ecumenical and interfaith relations through a shared love of cricket.
The December 27 to January 3 Buenos Aires trip is St Peter’s Cricket Team’s 5th “Light of Faith Tour”.