It has to be a providential turn of events that our soccer-loving Pope should see his native national side not only reach the World Cup Final, but also face the national team of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
The Vatican has said Pope Francis “might” watch the Argentina v Germany match on Sunday but is unlikely to do so alongside the Pope Emeritus. “He might want to watch the final,” Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi told reporters today, but added the late kick-off would be too late for him as he is normally in bed before 10pm. As for Benedict XVI, he said: "I don’t believe he watches sport, I don’t know, but in the past I didn’t get the impression that he watched it much.”
Benedict kept informed of big matches as Pope, but wasn't a close follower of his home team, Bayern Munich. Pope Francis continues to be an avid fan and card-carrying member of the San Lorenzo de Almagro - a club he has followed since childhood.
Commentators have been joking that Sunday’s match has turned from “World Cup” to “Pope Cup” now that the two papal nationalities have reached the final, and the tournament has provided light relief in a 24/7 news cycle largely dominated by death and suffering.
But Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad has rightly sounded a serious note. In a recent interview in which he warned that Christian life will eventually come to an end in the region, he chastised Western states who, he said, "find football" in the current World Cup "more interesting than the situation here or in Syria." (H/T Rorate Caeli).