Pope Francis on Friday held an audience with the national rugby teams of Argentina and Italy, using the occasion to praise a sport that is "tough" but involves "great loyalty and respect."
"Rugby is a very nice sport and I tell you I see it like that because it's tough, there's a lot of physical contact. But there's no violence, just great loyalty and respect," the Argentine pope said in a speech to the teams' officials, coaching staff and players.
The pope, a big fan of soccer and sports in general, said rugby "is very tough." "It's not a walk in the park and that's why I think it serves to build character and willpower."
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires said the sport strikes a "balance between the group and the individual" since there are actions in which the whole team participates, such as the "famous scrums," but also individual actions.
"In rugby, you run toward the goal. This is a very beautiful word that makes us think about life. Because our entire life is in pursuit of a goal, and this quest is hard, requires struggle and commitment, but the important thing is not to run alone," the pontiff said.
The pope joked that his interpretation of the sport was not "very technical" but was the "bishop (of Rome's) vision of rugby."
"As a bishop, I hope you take all of this outside the field, into your own lives," Francis said before wishing the teams' luck in their friendly scheduled for Saturday.
The squads' captains gave the pope an olive plant, which will be symbolically planted before their friendly match at Rome's Stadio Olimpico and later taken to the Vatican Gardens. EFE