Pope gets signed cricket bat after Anglican-Vatican rematch

VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope Francis has received an unusual gift aimed at boosting relations between the Catholic and Anglican churches: A cricket bat signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his team following their recent rematch with the Vatican’s XI on Rome’s Campanelle grounds.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, a former rugby player who nevertheless knows cricket, gave Francis the bat Thursday after the St. Peter’s Cricket Club beat the Church of England’s XI by 43 runs in a 20-over match this weekend.

Francis promptly signed it himself.

The Vatican team includes seminarians and priests studying at Rome’s pontifical universities. They are 4-0 this season ahead of an April rematch with the Royal Household.

Australia’s Vatican ambassador, John McCarthy, said the Anglicans’ visit ”strengthened personal and institutional relations” between the two churches.