VATICAN (SE): Cricket is not a sport normally associated with Argentina, but a team from Pope Francis’ hometown of Buenos Aires was on his list of people to greet at his general audience for October 11.
Although not a cricketing country, a project called Cricket Sin Fronteras (Cricket Without Borders) began operating almost a decade ago in the poorest parts of the capital where the Church is engaged in offering constructive past times to young people as a choice to violence and crime.
Although far from mainstream, its popularity has grown and now hundreds of young people, both boys and girls, take part in the project.
Vatican Radio reported that the Argentinian team was in Rome for a match against the St. Peter’s Cricket Club, set up under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture and comprised mainly of seminarians and priests studying in Rome.
The team brought bats made by inmates in Argentinian prisons to the audience to be blessed.
The team management believes that through the sport, youngsters can learn the values of respect, inclusivism and the teamwork that will enable them to build a brighter future.
However, this is not just a brighter future for themselves, as they are the very values that Pax Christi believes form attitudes of nonviolence in young people and are an important ingredient to peace education in any society.
The cricket field may look like a peaceful scene, which can belie the tensions that grow among the players, but the tension can serve to build respect not vindictiveness.
The team coach, Hernan Fennell, told Vatican Radio that the initiative began with just five or six young people, but now involves over 800, both boys and girls, between the ages of six and 20.
It was the brainchild of Father Pepe Di Paola, a well-known priest working in the depressed areas of the town.
How’s that for peace in the city!