by Fr Sameer Advani LC, Manager of the St Peter’s XI
Priests, deacons, and seminarians from Rome, representing the Vatican (St Peter’s) Cricket Team, were in England on their 4th Light of Faith Tour this summer, from 3rd to 15th July.
Founded in 2014 to promote inter-religious, ecumenical, and inter-cultural dialogue, the team aims to foster the spread of the Gospel through the means of cricket. Their recently concluded tour thus included matches with teams from very different backgrounds: a Stonyhurst XI at Stonyhurst College, multi-faith teams at Lord’s and at Walthamstow in East London, a Commonwealth XI at the Indian Gymkhana Ground, the Houses of Parliament XI at Chiswick House, and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle. The matches were accompanied by informal visits to Westminster Cathedral and Archbishop’s House where Bishop Nicholas Hudson received the team, and to a Muslim mosque, a Hindu temple, a Sikh gurdwara, and a Jewish synagogue.
Our goal on this tour was to use cricket as a platform to underline the vital importance of authentic religious experience for society and to emphasise the bonds among major religions. Visiting Parliament and speaking to different religious leaders was thus an essential aspect of the tour: dialogue between politicians and the rich heritage and accumulated wisdom of religious traditions is key if we are to construct a society that truly respects man and seeks his good, and St Peter’s is happy that it could contribute in a small way to this task.
Of notable interest in this regard was the launch of the ‘Peace at the Crease’ initiative and the ‘Commonwealth Cup’ by Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, during two of the Vatican’s matches. These programmes are geared toward building bridges across communities in the 53 member states of the Commonwealth through religious faith and cricket, and they thus enter perfectly into the team’s goal of bearing witness to how religion helps society grow stronger and more united.
Perhaps the most memorable day of the tour for many of the cricketers was Sunday 8th July when we visited the ISIS Young Offender’s Prison. The opportunity to celebrate Mass, share a meal, and play cricket with the staff and prisoners was something we will never forget. It was easy to forget the pain and suffering that otherwise permeated the facility, and we could experience in a very beautiful way how the faith makes us all one family, brothers and sisters united in the Lord. At the end of the day each prisoner received a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
The tour concluded on Saturday 14th July when the Vatican XI played the Royal Household at Windsor Castle. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth greeted players of both teams at the end of the match and presented them with a commemorative medal marking the occasion.
And how did all the cricket go? We won seven out of eight games, a result that any touring party would be envious of! The two weeks in England were unforgettable in every sense of the word: some incredibly close and nerve racking matches, beautiful and historical grounds, meeting Her Majesty… these are memories that will last a lifetime. But the greatest treasure was the opportunity of being able to share the beauty of our faith with hundreds of people from all different walks of life and thus contribute, in a very modest way, to spreading the Light of the Faith in England.
Additional photos from the visit to Archbishop's House as well as from the visit to the Royal Household are available here