Pope given San Lorenzo’s trophy after victory
Pope Francis celebrated his beloved San Lorenzo’s victory in the
Argentine soccer championship Wednesday, congratulating team
members, reminiscing about going to the stadium as a child and
hoisting up the team’s trophy in St. Peter’s Square for all to
Club members gave Francis the trophy and the glove goalie
Sebastian Torrico used to block the ball in the final minute of
Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Velez Sarsfield, securing the title for the
opening half of the Argentine first-division season.
Referencing another big moment in Argentine soccer history –
Diego Maradona’s ”Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986
World Cup – club vice president Marcelo Tinelli said Francis
performed a ”miracle” on Sunday: ”For us, it was the hand of
God, the hand of the pope,” he joked.
Both the glove and trophy will remain at the Vatican, a belated
birthday gift to Francis, who turned 77 this week.
The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a lifelong fan of the Saints
of San Lorenzo, and has been a member (ID No. 88235) since
The team draws its name from a priest, Lorenzo Massa, who
offered to let a group of youths use church grounds to play in
instead of the streets of Buenos Aires in the early 1900s.
Bergoglio grew up in the Flores neighborhood of the Argentine
capital near the stadium and formed a bond with the team.
On Wednesday, he reminisced about going to the stadium with his
father as a boy during a 30-minute meeting with the club at his
Vatican hotel. Team members gave him a photo of his childhood hero,
Rene Pontoni, who played for San Lorenzo when it won the national
title in 1946.
The pope gave the team players and managers an image of the
Madonna which they said they would keep in the stadium.
Originally Tinelli, the club vice president, had announced that
the team would give Francis a replica of the championship trophy,
but he and other officials said Wednesday that they gave him the
original and that it would remain in Rome.
Like many Latin American countries, Argentina divides its season
into two halves and crowns champions for each one.
Later, at the end of Francis’ Wednesday general audience, the
delegation went up to the pope on the steps of St. Peter’s and
formally presented him with the trophy and a red and blue team
jersey with ”Francisco Campeon” – Francis Champion – written on
the back. A clearly pleased Francis raised the trophy.
Wednesday was Francis’ last general audience for 2013, and the
Vatican took the opportunity to release statistics about his
pontificate, revealing that the Vatican had issued twice as many
tickets for his general audiences than it had for Pope Benedict XVI
in the first year of his pontificate.
The Vatican said 1,548,500 tickets had been distributed over the
course of the 30 general audiences Francis has held since his March
13 election. The actual number of people who attended is far
higher, since anyone can go to an audience and the Vatican now
shuts down the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square to
accommodate the throngs each Wednesday.
Unlike his predecessors, Francis has chosen not to move his
audiences indoors once the weather turned cold, to better
accommodate the masses.
For comparison’s sake, 810,000 tickets were distributed in
Benedict XVI’s first year in 2005, during which he held 32
audiences after his April 19 election. At the end of 2005, the
Vatican said 2.85 million people had participated in Benedict’s
public events those first eight months of his pontificate, which
included all his Masses, audiences, Sunday blessings and World
Youth Day events in Cologne, Germany.
The Vatican didn’t release such complete statistics on Wednesday
for Francis. The Holy See is on record, though, as reporting that
Francis drew 3.7 million people on a single day to his concluding
World Youth Day Mass in Rio de Janeiro in July, though
statisticians put the actual figure at less than half that.
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