‘Vatican Cricket Team’ a hit for media and interfaith dialogue

By Jordan Grantham, 6 November 2017
Pope Francis and St Peter's XI. Image: Facebook - @vaticancricketclub

John McCarthy QC, Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See from 2012-16, met with Catholic Outlook for an interview that will form the basis of a series about the scope and impact of the work of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See.

The articles explore with former Ambassador McCarthy how Australia is able to promote its specific issues and interests among the extensive international network and activities of the Holy See.

“The Holy See is widely regarded as the world’s most influential exponent of soft (non-military) power,” John McCarthy said.

The embassy represents the Australian Government in vital areas such as human rights, religious freedom, cultural exchanges and bilateral relations. This article focuses on cultural exchange and interfaith dialogue.

John McCarthy founded St Peter’s Cricket Club in 2013, also often called the ‘Vatican Cricket Team’.

The launch of St Peter’s Cricket Club was one of the best news stories about the Holy See in 2013, receiving positive coverage across the world, from Reuters, NPR, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph UK, The Guardian, Australia’s Daily Telegraph, News.com.au, television and radio.

The Times of India, in jubilation, reported the founding of the Cricket Club and noted the large number of players from the subcontinent. Reports about the new Club could be found throughout the cricket world. The ‘bible of cricket’ celebrated the foundation of St Peter’s Cricket Club with stories in three consecutive editions of Wisden, in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The Vatican Team has been established under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Council’s department for sports has provided the club with significant media and material support.

A photograph of the pontifical council’s undersecretary, Spanish born Msgr Sanchez de Toca wearing a cricket helmet went viral.

The Pontifical Council for Culture’s Department for Sports has provided the Club with significant media and material support.

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Playing for St Peter’s are priests, seminarians and students of Pontifical Colleges and seminaries, mostly from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan. The first captain was Fr Tony Currer of the English College and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The manager is a cricket loving Irishman, Fr Eamonn O’Higgins LC.

In Rome, the St Peter’s Club plays at Capannelle Oval, near Rome’s horse racing course. This is also the home of the Capannelle Cricket Club, founded by Alphonso Jayarajah from Sri Lanka in the 1970s.

It was the venue for the famous match in 2015, when St Peter’s Club defeated the Church of England in the form of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI.

The teams have now met three times, with two other matches in England, which narrowly went to the Church of England. St Peter’s plays at a high level of cricket, equivalent to club level in Sydney.

After playing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI in 2016, the second Light of Faith Tour took the Vatican XI to Yorkshire to play Mount Cricket Club’s all-Muslim team.

This year, the Light of Faith Tour took the team to Fatima, Portugal for an interfaith tournament of Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jewish teams.

John McCarthy’s lifelong love of cricket involved him serving on the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and playing cricket at school and university.

Ambassador McCarthy has seen cricket bring people together in many ways.

“Successful national sporting teams can create an interest and passion across all sections of a society,” John said.

“Australian priests traditionally strong interest in sport has always allowed a wide entré with men and boys from all sections of the Church.”

“Australian priests have found it not difficult to talk to people because of sport.”

“Most men have a view about major sports – from high court judges to cleaners.”

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Fr Robert McCulloch SSC is another Australian board member of the St Peter’s Cricket Club. He is the Procurator General in Rome for the St Columban Missionaries.

“St Peter’s Club has been making great strides in building bridges based
 on what millions of people have in common – a burning love of cricket,” Fr Robert said with great delight.

“I have spent 35 years in Pakistan and reports about the Vatican Cricket Club have caused much interest there,” he said.

Last year, the Governor of Sindh Province sent a gift of a dozen cricket bats to the St Peter’s Club.

Bridge building is part of the St Columban Missionaries’ activities worldwide.

Fr Robert’s colleague Rev Dr Patrick McInerney SSC leads the Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, which has recently relocated to the Diocese of Parramatta, at the Institute for Mission, Blacktown.

The Centre has built relationships with over 80 Islamic community organisations and is a regular presence at important interfaith events in Greater Sydney.

Read more about the Vatican Cricket Team and the Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations here.


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