7am on Wednesday 18th October, twelve vicars and ordinands met at Gatwick airport to travel to Rome to play the Vatican at cricket.
On hearing the news, most people respond – ‘The Vatican! Do Italians really play cricket?’ The truth is that as a rule Italians don’t play cricket nor do they even understand what cricket is. But the Catholic Church draws in people from all nationalities and the Vatican team – known as St Peter’s
The cricket was a huge success for the ABC xi. Our match against Rome cricket club was a
A couple of days later, we returned to the one cricket ground in Rome to play St Peter’s xi. Although the Catholic team had spent much of the previous day trying to feed us up like Christmas turkeys, we turned up raring to go. I was asked to be
It was a huge privilege to be asked to be invited to be part of the tour. Alongside playing cricket, we were asked to spend time with the opposing team with the aim of walking together in our sport, our lives and in our worship of God. This involved more formal functions such as a reception by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, to informal times of being given tours around St Peter’s Basilica and the Pope‘s residence
A lot of people (possibly quite rightly) think cricket is a pointless sport and because of that it would be easy to think such a trip was frivolous. However, globally there is a vast amount of evidence that sport can play an important part of bringing people together and healing wounds. Whilst, I am under no illusion that a cricket match isn’t going to heal the wound that Father Eamonn spoke about, what is encouraging is seeing the respect, graciousness and love between the two teams. As part of the trip we were able to visit the Anglican Centre in Rome. Here, we heard about how four years of cricket have been instrumental in the Catholic Anglican dialogue of recent times. We may not be doing the diplomacy or the theology, but in simply playing cricket together we are beginning to live out the practice of what it means to walk or even bowl together.
It struck me that it is five hundred years since the reformation began this month. On the 31st October we celebrated reformation day, reflecting on Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church. We can be so torn by our divisions that we can miss that many of the critiques of the 95 theses have been addressed in the Catholic Church since then. Our differences are still present and need to be recognised, but it is amazing that in five hundred years, the Anglican and Catholic churches have never been closer. This year, Pope Francis attended a service at All Saints Anglican church in Rome, also an Anglican service was conducted in St Peter’s Basilica for the first time ever. Most of this dialogue has arisen out of the deep friendship between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin. I just hope, in a small way, playing cricket has been part of the healing of that deep wound.
I would like to thank the many people who made this trip possible. For the sponsorship from the Church Times (Paul Handley in particular who was with us to report on the trip) and Ecclesiastical; for the effort of the Archbishop of Canterbury in making such an event happen; for the support of Mark Rylands, the Bishop of Shrewsbury who chaperoned our trip; for the wisdom of our coach Tom Benham and our chaplain Rob Walrond; for the team and the fun, friendship and unforgettable memories that we shared together.