Pope Francis signed a jersey of the Athletica Vaticana – the Vatican’s multi-sport team – at the end of the general audience on January 12, 2022. The jersey will be handed over personally by Bishop Emmanuel Gobillard, Auxiliary Bishop of Lyon, France, to Lionel Messi.
On the sidelines of his catechesis in Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis greeted a number of personalities and prelates, including Bishop Gobillard, who oversees the French Bishops’ Conference efforts for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The French bishop walked up to the Pope wearing the gold jersey of the Vatican team. He whispered a few words to the Pontiff who, amused, wrote a small note on the back of the tunic.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, this dedication is a “blessing” addressed to Lionel Messi, his Argentine compatriot. The tunic will be given to the six-time gold ball through the auxiliary bishop of Lyon.
The Osservatore Romano notes that through this unusual initiative, “the exchange of shirts between the Pontiff and the Argentine star is therefore complete.” Last October, French Prime Minister Jean Castex gave Pope Francis an autographed shirt from the Paris Saint-Germain player.
Bishop Gobillard, who today led a delegation of athletes including the captain of the French soccer team Wendie Renard, is no stranger to the Athletica Vaticana. Last September, he participated under the colors of the first Vatican sports association in an athletics meeting on the outskirts of Rome.