Pope thanks 'Match for Peace' players for offering outstretched hand
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The third edition of the 2022 Match for Peace, organized by the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes, took place on Monday evening at Rome's Olympic Stadium, with the support and blessing of Pope Francis.
Ahead of the match, the Pope greeted the world-renowned soccer players, organizers and their families, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
The game, with the motto "We Play for Peace," features the participation of many important figures in the world of football, and follows the first two matches, held on 1 September 2014 and 12 October 2016.
This year's edition pays homage to football giant Diego Maradona, who participated in both of the previous Matches for Peace, leading the 'Scholas squad.' Maradona passed away in November 2020.
The Holy Father thanked the athletes for sowing seeds of peace in a world marked by war.
Peace, the Pope said, is the fruit of gestures like theirs, namely "of closeness, friendship, the outstretched hand, always," and "not with the stone in your hand to throw it."
These "seeds of peace," he said, may be small, but "are capable of changing the world."
Adrian Pallarols, a close friend of Pope Francis, and frequently known as the Pope's silversmith, made the trophy for the Match and spoke with Vatican News.
Pope Francis married Adrian and his wife, and baptized their children. The seventh-generation silversmith used to meet with the Archbishop of Buenos Aires regularly, and discuss theology and art over milk and cookies prepared by nuns.
They met in 2002 during the restoration of the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, and in 2005, they created a chalice together, which they would gift to then-Pope Benedict XVI.
Mr. Pallarols had made the trophy for the Match for Peace in the past, and created the chalice used by the Pope during the 2015 Mass he celebrated in New York in Madison Square Garden.
Match for Peace
In the interview, Mr. Pallarols noted how this encounter, where renowned soccer players are playing for free in order to promote peace, has great significance.
"The meaning of this encounter is to help raise money for the poor, to take care of the children that Pope Francis always calls to help, to get together, to see what you can do for others, what you what you can provide, and what you can do, to get a better life."
Expressing his joy for the Pope's closeness to the encounter, he remembered that the day's events began in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall on Monday afternoon, where the Holy Father received soccer players and those involved.
"The Holy Father introduced the small sculpture I made of a silver olive tree."
The silver olive tree, Mr. Pallarols said, is "a symbol," showing that "planting and taking care of a plant" lays the roots for "a project of life."
The Sculpture and Maradona
The sculpture, he explained, has a small plate in the back, which the Pope and others have signed, to remember and celebrate global soccer champion Diego Armando Maradona.
"This will be the first game without him. He was one of the greatest supporters," Mr. Pallarols remembered.
"Everyone signed this work, to make a homage," he said.
Joining together for free, for the good
Monday's match was broadcast on Italian television.
The players who joined the event were Ronaldinho, Buffon, Caniggia, Ciro Ferrara, Diego Maradona Jr., Hristo Stoickov, Nicolas Burdisso, Martin Demichelis, Daniel Osvaldo, Eric Abidal, Henrikh Mjitaryán, Diego Perroti, Ciro Immobile, Vincent Candela, Antonio Di Natale, Zaccardo, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Ivan Rakitic , Legrottaglie, Roman Weidenfeller, Zé Maria, Ricardo López Felipe, Simone Perrota, Fabio Cannavaro, Paulo Futre, Bruno Alves, Roberto Tucu Pereyra, Pablo Zavaleta, Mirsolav Klose, Shota Arveladze (Ruso), Hugo Almeida, Robert Pires, Gökan Inler, Fabio Galante, Antonio Benarribo, Alejand Chori, Dominguez, Sebastien Frey, Zambrotta (entrenador).
Since its inception, Scholas, now a Pontifical Foundation, has become a worldwide network of schools that share assets, with common objectives and special attention to those most in need. Scholas Occurrentes’ roots are to be found in educational projects created for children in impoverished areas in the city of Buenos Aires, at the initiative of the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.