RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Pope Francis is speaking the language of Brazil's soccer-mad youth, telling them that being a good Catholic is like training to play soccer.
Only Francis is adding a seemingly blasphemous twist, telling them Jesus offers them ''something more than the World Cup.''
In the land of Pele that will host the World Cup in 2014, the joke might have gone over poorly coming from a pope from Argentina, Brazil's nemesis on the pitch.
But the crowd on Copacabana beach Saturday for World Youth Day cheered with delight.
Francis is a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo and has been a member (ID No. 88235) since 2008.
On this trip he has added to his already sizeable collection of soccer jerseys given to him by the faithful and expressed his desire for peace on Twitter:
May sports always be a means of exchange and growth, never of violence and hate. #Rio2013 #JMJ
-- Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 25, 2013