In a gesture of gratitude and affection, the Argentinean national soccer team, which lost Sunday to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, sent Pope Francis an official team jersey autographed by each of its players.
“Here’s the present the team sent to our Pope Francis!” team member Maxi Rodriguez said in a post on his Twitter account, which featured a photo of himself and team captain Lionel Messi holding the jersey.
The Holy See expressed thanks for the gift on Thursday, noting that although Argentina did not win the final, the team “acknowledged it had faith that the Pontiff would keep them in his thoughts throughout the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”
During their stay in Brazil, the Argentine team kept a large photo of the players posing with Pope Francis on display at their training center in Belo Horizonte. The picture was taken last year when the Argentine team visited the pontiff while in Rome for a friendly match with Italy.
Papal ceremonialist Msgr. Guillermo Karcher said that although Pope Francis is an avid soccer fan, he did not watch the World Cup final.
“The Pope was following the results of the World Cup, but he said he was not going to watch the final for reasons of neutrality,” Msgr. Karcher explained.
“We kept him up to date at each stage,” he added.
Before the opening of the World Cup, Pope Francis sent a video message expressing hope that the event would be an occasion for encounter between the cultures. He also sent out a message on July 12 via Twitter, noting that the World Cup soccer tournaments have brought people of various nations and religious together.
“May sports always promote the culture of encounter,” he said.