· Vatican City ·

At Windsor Castle the Pope’s cricket team clashes with the King’s

‘Build bridges of fraternal solidarity’

 ‘Build bridges of fraternal solidarity’   ING-027
05 July 2024

The Vatican cricket team is wrapping up its 10th “Light of Faith” tour, this year in London from 28 June to 5 July. The team, which is composed of seminarians and priests based in Rome, took on the England Seniors at Wormsley Estate on 29 June, and St Mary’s University at Arundel Castle on 1 July. On 4 July, the day after their match with the King’s xi at Windsor Castle, the group made a pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey. The goal of the “Light of Faith” tour is to promote dialogue and friendship between the Catholic Church and the host country.

On Wednesday, 3 July, the Vatican cricket team travelled to Windsor Castle, home to King Charles and various members of the Royal Family. There, they faced off against the King’s xi, a cricket team composed of members of the monarch’s household. The match was the culmination of the Vatican side’s ‘Light of Faith’ UK tour.

Before the match, Fr Eamonn O’Higgins, the Vatican squad’s manager, had read out a message from Pope Francis. The Pope sent his greetings to both teams, and expressed his hope that the event would be an occasion to “build bridges of fraternal solidarity, promote Christian unity, and advance generous charitable initiatives in service to the most needy of our brothers and sisters”.

King Charles had also prepared a message for the occasion. The monarch pointed out that this was the fourth match between the Vatican and a royal team, and said he was “delighted” that the two sides had “once again been brought together by the love of cricket”. Noting that the Vatican are “reigning champions”, having won the previous match, the King added that he was “await[ing] keenly to hear of the result!”. This time, it was, in fact, His Majesty’s team who claimed victory, after a close match complicated at times by rain.

Fr O’Higgins also presented a letter and medal to Sir John Spurling, a British businessman and a patron of the Vatican Cricket team. Commenting on the event, Sir Spurling said it was “a wonderful day with sports”, an opportunity for people to have fun, enjoy each other’s company and even raise some money for charity. The letter, written by Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça — the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery who oversees the cricket team — thanked Sir John for his “extraordinarily generous” support. The Cardinal went on to stress the importance of the team’s “sporting diplomacy” in the context of what Pope Francis calls a “third world war in instalments”.

This was a theme that Chris Trott, the UK Ambassador to the Holy See, picked up on too, in an interview with Vatican News. He said that the match had “great resonance” on a number of levels, both political and religious. He pointed to the ecumenical significance of the tour as a whole, which also included group visits to a number of royal chapels both in London and Windsor. “We’ve been welcomed by Church of England, Anglican, clergy who are responsible for the chapels”, explained the Ambassador, adding that they acknowledge “the historical links with the Catholic Church”, allowing them to celebrate the faith together. “Sport builds friendships and overcomes barriers”, the Ambassador said, and this event “is a great example of that”.

By Joseph Tulloch