Last year in October, Vatican City founded its first ever Cricket team. Officially named as St. Peter’s Cricket Club and popularly called Vatican XI, the team is comprised of an international group of Catholic priests and seminarians from Rome. Sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture – the equivalent of department of sports, the multi-national team includes eight Indians, two Sri Lankans, and one each from Pakistan,
England and Ireland. According to one of the official statements, the establishment of the club has been greeted with tremendous enthusiasm and its aim is ‘to ensure that the Vatican and thereby the entire Catholic Church better understand all that the cricket playing people love and appreciate’.
Interestingly, Pakistan is extending its support to these young priest-cricketers. Earlier this month on 8th of July, Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad presented a cheque and six test-quality made-in-Pakistan cricket bats to Fr. Robert McCulloch, a committee member of the Club, in a ceremony held at Governor House Sindh. The amount of the cheque has not been made public though. The Governor called it ‘a gift for our friends in the Vatican as a token of friendship’.
The connection between Sindh government and the Vatican team came about through Mr. McCulloch, an Australian priest who has been working in Pakistan for 34 years, and Aamir Bhatti, the Pakistani member of the team from Karachi. Aamir Bhatti has been preparing in Rome for three years to become a Catholic priest and has been selected as the team’s wicket keeper.
The authorities at Vatican, proud of the diverse composition of the club, are looking forward to an experience of the values that ‘Asian continent has imbibed into the game’ including ‘its gentlemanly way of life, fierce competition, intricate skill and great tradition of hospitality’.
Such anticipations were expressed in a thank you letter written to Governor Ibad by the President of the Club.
Vatican XI will travel to England in September to play with the Archbishop of Canterbury XI, the Royal Household at Windsor Castle, and other teams. Pope Francis will bid farewell to this ‘holy’ team before it leaves for England. Proceeds from the matches will be given to different charities.
The Governor has also offered to send an experienced test cricketer to train the team in October of this year. Dr. Ibad, himself a cricketer, has also proposed to hold a tri-team tournament in 2015 between Governor of Sindh XI, the Vatican XI, and the Archbishop of Canterbury XI as a way to project friendship and harmony through sports.