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Pope pays 'religiously' to remain member of soccer club

Argentine club has bragging rights to Pope Francis' support

06 August, 14:58
Pope pays 'religiously' to remain member of soccer club (ANSA) - Buenos Aires, August 6 - No matter how high his elevation in the Church hierarchy, Pope Francis pays "religiously" to keep up his membership in Argentina's San Lorenzo soccer club, says a team official.

Francis, an avid soccer fan, has not only remained loyal to his club from capital city Buenos Aires, but is faithful in his dues payments, paying "religiously" said its vice-president Marcelo Tinelli.

The former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now pope, actually arranged for the club to automatically debit his bank account to be sure his payments would be made on time and his membership remain in good standing.

Since his election as pope earlier this year, Francis has maintained his relationship with the Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro.

He even called out greetings to members of the team when they visited Vatican City in April.

The pope will have a chance to again show his colours and cheer for Argentinian players next week, when members of the national team meet the Italian national soccer squad in a friendly on August 14.

The match, in Rome's Olympic stadium, will be dedicated to the pope.

The pope is scheduled to meet one day earlier with players from both sides, a Vatican source has said.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi and Italy star Mario Balotelli will be among the players received by the pontiff, the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) said.

Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain, recently signed by Napoli and selected for his country's squad for the match, will be among the players at the friendly.

Pope Francis was given a soccer jersey decorated with Messi's name from well-wishers at a general audience in April, about a month after his election.

The soccer-loving pope was visibly delighted by the gift, a No.10 Barcelona replica shirt with four-time world player of the year Messi's name on it.