The Vatican Cricket team paid a visit to Archbishop’s House on Wednesday 11th July, as their tour of the UK nears its end.
Bishop Nicholas Hudson welcomed the team of priests and deacons, and gave a short reflection on sport, faith and community with the Vatican team, who come from a number of different seminaries in Rome.
‘You will have experienced, I am sure, a brotherhood not just between yourselves but also with those to whom you also offer a sporting rivalry, a test of their ability against yours,’ said Bishop Nicholas.
‘You will know, as well, the opportunity sports matches give to show friendship or its opposite.
‘I have no doubt your play is always honest: surely the Vatican XI would never call “howzat” if they had a shadow of a doubt the batsman was not out!’
One of the Vatican Squad is Fr Elliott Wright, a priest of the Diocese of Leeds, who was a seminarian at the Venerable English College while Bishop Nicholas was Rector.
Thus far on their tour they have won five games and have only lost once: defeating Stonyhurst Gentlemen’s XI, the UK Inter-faith XI which was played at Lord’s, the East London Faith Team, a Commonwealth XI and Her Majesty’s Prison and Young Offenders Institution XI, with their only defeat at the hands of Walthamstow Cricket Club.
Their final games of the tour are against the Houses of Parliament XI on Thursday 12th July, before ending the tour with a visit to Windsor Castle for a game against the Royal Household Cricket Club on Saturday 14th July, where they will meet the Queen.
While visiting the Houses of Parliament they will also celebrate Mass in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, the chapel in the Palace of Westminster.
Particularly striking for the Vatican squad was the visit to Her Majesty’s Prison, where they were with the prisoners at the Altar of the Lord with their new prison chaplain, Fr Paul Douthwaite, at the table for lunch and finally at the crease to play cricket.
Bishop Nicholas was reluctant to pin too much pressure on the team as the face of the Church, however he gave them his blessing as he sent them back out to the world.
‘I would encourage you to see yourselves as ambassadors,’ Bishop Nicholas said, as he ended his reflection.
‘Dare to own for yourselves what is a Scriptural, Pauline expression, that you should see yourselves as nothing less than “ambassadors for Christ”.
‘If you do, then I find it a very exciting and significant mission you’re on; and I wish you every grace and blessing in it.’
In spite of their busy schedule the squad have remained diligent to their priestly duties, celebrating Mass, praying the Office and praying the Rosary together on the journey back to their accommodation after games.
Additional photos from the visit to Archbishop's House are available here.