Pope hopes in charity match deals ‘kick’ to exclusion

Pope hopes in charity match deals ‘kick’ to exclusion

Rome Pope Francis hopes that a charity soccer match featuring a Swiss guard, Vatican staff, priests, a player with Down syndrome, immigrants and Roma will “kick” discrimination.

The match will take place on Sunday in Rome and will be moderated by Lazio captain Ciro Immobile. The meeting on the pitch aims to raise funds for an initiative of the Archdiocese of Rome to promote the integration of Roma and others who, in the Vatican’s description, are among the “most vulnerable” members of society.

“It’s a team where there are no barriers, which makes inclusion a natural thing,” Francis told an audience of game participants on Saturday in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

In many of his speeches, Francis described the challenges faced by the Roma community. In September, during a pilgrimage to Slovakia, the Pope visited a Roma community.

“My dear gypsy friends, I know very well your history, your reality, your fears and your hopes,” Francis told the football match participants, which he said “indicate that the path towards peaceful coexistence is integration.”

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The pope noted that there are sporting initiatives in Croatia aimed at integrating Roma, which he praised for facilitating “mutual acquaintance and friendship”. He also hoped that the dream of children, who “have the right to grow together”, would not be shattered by discriminatory barriers.

Francis wished all the best to the participants in the game.

“It does not matter who will score the most goals, because the decisive goal you will score together, the one that makes hope win and gives impetus to the elimination,” Francis said.

The players will include three immigrants who arrived in Italy after living in a refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, and are now helped by a Roman Catholic charity. The Pope visited Lesbos in 2016 and brought back scores of Syrian Muslims with him on a flight back to Rome. The Pope will return to Lesbos during his trips early next month.

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