Vatican City: A day after thrashing local club Roma 7-1, Bayern Munich staff and players yesterday paid a visit to the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as Pope Francis.
Pope Francis greets FC Bayern Munich head coach Josep Guardiola at the Vatican yesterday. Pic/AFP
Club captains Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer and coach Pep Guardiola presented the football-loving pontiff with a Bayern shirt signed by all the players with the German version of his chosen name, Franziskus, and a Number 1 printed on the back.
Francis, an Argentine who follows Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, praised the Bayern squad for their Champions League demolition job in the Olympic Stadium.
"You played a wonderful game yesterday," he was quoted as saying on Bayern's website, adding: "Football is good and healthy, and a good role model for children as a team sport."
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who spent three seasons in Italy with Internazionale, chatted with the pontiff in Italian, telling him that the audience had been a "great honour".
Francis responded that he had fond memories of the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico, in which Rummenigge scored one of Germany's goals in a 3-2 defeat by Argentina.
Rummenigge also announced that the club would be donating one million euros in proceeds from an upcoming friendly match for Francis to pass on to a charity or charities of his choice.
"It was very special, especially for those who are Catholic," said Neuer later. "It was a great moment in the history of the club." After blessing the group, Francis brought the audience to a close in German, saying: "Thank you for your visit. Pray for me, I need it."