Sitting alongside soccer stars such as Ronaldinho and Bryan Ruiz on Wednesday, Pope Francis announced that a second edition of his 2014 interreligious match for peace will take place in May.
“I invite you all to the Match for Peace. It will be here in Rome May 29,” the Pope said Feb. 3 at an event organized by the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes.
The soccer match is aimed at demonstrating “that we are capable of making peace with a game, with art,” he said, adding that he’s doing it “as a service.”
“One of the definitions of the Pope is to be the servant of the servants of God. That is why I am here, that is why I agreed to come,” Francis said, explaining that the intent of the game isn’t proselytization, but the good of the human person.
“I want to be very clear: what matters here is the human person. Man and woman have to be the center,” he said.
The first match for peace took place Sept. 1, 2014, at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, and was organized by retired Catholic soccer star Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, who was captain of the Argentine national team and of Inter Milan in Italy.
Zanetti, who had formed a close relationship with the Pope while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, pitched Francis the idea of organizing a sports event that brought together members of different religions.
Francis backed the idea, and charged Zanetti with organizing the match alongside the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. Scholas Occurrentes and Italy's PUPI Foundation were two other key organizers who helped put the match together.
Past soccer players who represent different cultures and religions, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Shintoists all participated in the event.
In addition to Zanetti, other well-known players who participated in the match were Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Simeone, Gabriel Heinze, Mauro Icardi; Colombian Ivan Cordoba, Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama; Chilean Ivan Zamorano; Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Toldo and Buffon Italian Gianluiggi and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o.
Pope Francis made his announcement for the second match at the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV for the World Congress of Scholas Occurrentes.
Scholas was founded by Pope Francis while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts, and sports.
In the course of the meeting, the organization presented three of its current programs: Scholas Arts, Scholas Sports and Social, and Scholas Citizenship, all of which promote the formation of youth.
The Pope was flanked by major soccer players such as Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, more commonly known as “Ronaldinho,” José María del Corral, Enrique Palmeyro, the president of the Spanish Soccer League Javier Tebas, and the new president of CONMEBOL.
Before heading out, Pope Francis offered brief reflections on the world of education to conclude the event.