The Vatican cricket team has unveiled the schedule for its English tour this summer. This follows the publication earlier this month of the Vatican’s first document on sport, Giving the Best of Yourself. The text describes how, at its best, sport offers an ethical training for life. The Vatican cricket team – known officially as the Vatican (St Peter’s) Cricket Team – are the ambassadors of this vision.

The Vatican XI was founded in 2014 and consists of priests, deacons and seminarians studying and working in Rome. The team is under the official patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture and players hail from across the Commonwealth.

The team’s objectives are to increase awareness of the importance of religion for society and to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue through cricket. Matches are thus seen as a means of bringing different communities together and promoting what Pope Francis has called the “culture of encounter and dialogue”.

This year’s tour, which runs from July 3 to July 15, features a diverse array of fixtures. The tour will begin with a match against a Stonyhurst Gentlemen’s XI, comprised of current students as well as alumni, teachers and friends of the Jesuit school. Then the team will travel south for encounters with a mixture of rogues and royals, electors and the elected.

The Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury will field a combined team to play an interfaith side at Lord’s. St Peter’s Cricket Club will then play against Her Majesty’s Prison and Young Offenders Institution XI, a Commonwealth XI, the Mount Cricket Club, the Houses of Parliament XI and the Royal Household Cricket Club. The team will visit 10 Downing Street before flying back to Rome.

The choice of Stonyhurst as the first fixture is particularly evocative. An early form of cricket was played by the scions of recusant aristocracy and gentry at the English College in St Omers, the precursor to Stonyhurst, as early as the 1590s.

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