Vatican cricket team to play Church of England in first tour
St. Peter’s Cricket team begins their “Light of Faith Tour” this fall, which includes a warm-up game against a team from the Royal Household and a final match against the Anglican Church at Canterbury.
“We’re very happy that we were able to organize a cricket match against the Anglican Communion,” Fr. Eamon O’Higgins told Catholics News Agency during a June 24 press conference announcing the cricket team’s tour.
“The fact that it is a team of priests and seminarians, all of whom study here in Rome...is very significant for the Christian faith and we hope also the tour.”
Fr. O’Higgins is in charge of spiritual formation at Rome’s Maria Mater Ecclesiae college where the majority of the team members study, and also serves as the team manager for St. Peter’s Cricket Club, officially founded last fall.
Called the “Light of Faith Tour,” the team’s first season begins Sept. 12 when they leave for England, where they are slated to play a series of warm-up matches before their first major game against the Anglicans.
A first warm-up match against the Edinburgh Divines will take place Sept. 10 – 11 in Rome, after which the Vatican team will travel to Brighton for a Sept. 14 – 15 game, and will play their final warm-up match against a team composed of members from the Royal Household at Windsor Castle, an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, Sept. 17.
The initial matches will culminate in a Sept. 19 game played against a team from the Church of England, the mother church of the whole Anglican community, on the grounds of Kent County Cricket Club at the Canterbury Cathedral.
“Canterbury was the first Christian see. That’s where the first Christians came to England, the famous cathedral, the cathedral of St. Thomas Beckett, and St Anselm, the great philosopher and the remains of St. Thomas More are there,” Fr. O’Higgins explained.
“It’s the center of Christianity in England. So, a bigger place for Christians there isn’t!”
Serving as a moment of ecumenical encounter, several moments of prayer are being planned for the game, including a special prayer before the match begins, the recitation of evensong, or the singing of the psalms, the evening of Sept. 18 as well as a daily hour of Eucharistic adoration throughout the tour.
Referring to the name of the tour, Fr. O’Higgins observed that “we’ve called it the ‘Light of Faith Tour,’” to express the hope “that it will give the light of faith to people there.”
“The very fact of seeing priests, seminarians, boys training for the priesthood in a public atmosphere playing a cricket match, gives a sign to people,” he said.
Noting how the sport serves as a point of dialogue between Christianity and secular culture, the priest stated that it shows the world “that God does call young men to the priesthood, young men do respond and that faith is something alive and active.”
“Perhaps culture at times tends to make us forget the presence of God. And this is going to be a very visible presence of God on a cricket field at Canterbury.”
Made up of 12 priests, deacons and seminarians, the team is two-thirds Indian, with other members hailing from England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
“I don’t know if you know (but) in India cricket is a passion like football or soccer is in Brazil or in Europe,” Fr. O’Higgins explained, referring to the large number of Indians who volunteered to be on the team.
“So playing cricket in India is a way of entering into the culture, in a peaceful way, in a way that proposes something positive to people who perhaps would not be exposed to Christian culture.”
“That’s the idea,” he said, mentioning that “we don’t have any definite plans to go to India yet but we’re not going to stop anybody from inviting us.”