To some, football and God are a match made in, um, heaven. Among those people, it appears, is Pope Francis, who on Sunday delivered a special message ahead of the Super Bowl.
— Houston Super Bowl (@HouSuperBowl) February 5, 2017
“Great sporting events like today’s Super Bowl are highly symbolic showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace,” the Argentine said. “By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self interest and in a healthy way, we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules.”
He added: “May this year’s Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world.”
While some welcomed the pope’s words, others … well, not so much …
Hopefully the crowd at Houston’s NRG Stadium will be more welcoming to the Pope’s nondenominational message. According to the Associated Press, it will be played on the video board either before the game kicks off between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons or during the first quarter.
While this appears to be the first time a pope has specifically addressed Super Bowl fans, it’s not the first time Pope Francis has relayed a message ahead of a sporting event.
In 2014, he took to Twitter before and after the World Cup. His first tweet cast well wishes on the tournament that would see Germany beat his home country, 1-0.
I wish everyone a wonderful World Cup, played in a spirit of true fraternity.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 12, 2014
Pope Francis’s second tweet celebrated the diversity of the tournament, using some of the same language he used on Sunday to talk about the Super Bowl.
The World Cup allowed people from different countries and religions to come together. May sport always promote the culture of encounter.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 12, 2014
Pope Francis also had a message ahead of the Rio Olympics last year.
“In a world thirsting for peace, tolerance, and reconciliation, I hope that the spirit of the Olympic Games inspires all — participants and spectators — to fight the good fight and finish the race together,” said the pope (via USA Today) ahead of the Games.
An avid sports fan, Pope Francis then followed up his message with a couple of tweets, wishing the competitors good luck.